French troops will stay in the West African country of Mali at least until July, amid tougher-than-expected resistance from Islamic fighters, officials have told The Associated Press, despite earlier government promises to begin a quick pullout within weeks.
France’s leadership has painted the intervention against al-Qaeda-backed radicals in Mali, which began in January, as a swift and limited one, and said that France could start withdrawing its 4,000 troops in Mali in March and hand over security duties to an African force.
But the combat in rugged Sahara Desert mountains is growing harder, and there’s a rising threat that the militants will turn to suicide bombings, hostage-taking and other guerrilla tactics. . .