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    French Soldier, Militants Killed in Mali Clash



    France's President Francois Hollande says a French soldier has been killed in a clash with Islamist militants in northern Mali.

    The French Defense Ministry says more than 20 suspected militants were also killed during the clash, which occurred after French and Malian forces launched a raid on suspected militant hideouts on Monday.

    The French soldier killed was part of a parachute regiment. He is the second French soldier killed in Mali since the start of France's military intervention in the country in January.

    Mr. Hollande spoke to reporters while visiting Greece on Tuesday as Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko held talks with officials in France.

    The French news agency quotes Mr. Cissoko saying Mali's security situation has improved in recent weeks and large-scale military operations are coming to an end.



    In January, French troops entered the former French colony at the request of the Malian government to help drive back Islamist militants who controlled the north and had begun moving toward the capital, Bamako.

    France has announced plans to hand over its military operations to the Malian army and African forces. French officials have also urged the United Nations to establish a peacekeeping mission in Mali.

    In another development Tuesday, Malian officials said authorities are investigating reports of abuses by Malian soldiers.

    Human rights groups have raised concerns that both Malian troops and Islamic militants have committed grave human rights abuses, including summary executions and forced disappearances.

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