French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says French troops have discovered a huge arsenal of weapons in the mountains of northern Mali.
Le Drian said at the end of a two-day visit to Mali Friday that it appears al-Qaida-linked extremists were looking to turn the area into a terrorist sanctuary.
He told French radio that the militants established a terrorist war network in Mali aimed at attracting radical-minded youngsters, such as what has been done in Afghanistan and Syria.
French forces entered Mali in January to drive out Islamic extremists who seized control of the north last year. France is planning to wind down its mission and turn it over to an African-led force.
Le Drian says France has completed most of its mission in Mali, but is still encountering some pockets of resistance, including the area outside the city of Gao and the mountains in the north.