BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — French military forces are stepping up their military operations against jihadists in the northern Malian region of Gao.
French Col. Emmanuel Dosseur said Monday that his forces don't want to give the impression that they're going to "abandon our Malian friends."
France has been talking about reducing its presence in its former colony in the coming months, but also has said it aims to keep about 1,000 soldiers there.
French forces are proceeding cautiously because it's believed a French hostage being held by the militants is in the area.
Al-Qaida-linked militants inspired by a radical interpretation of Islam ruled Gao and northern Mali for nearly 10 months before the French-led military operation forced them into the surrounding desert.
But the militants have launched some attacks since being ousted from power.