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French tanks move north

ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION French tanks rolled northwards from Bamako in an armoured column on Thursday (Jan 17). French forces, numbering some 1,400 soldiers, began ground operations on Wednesday (Jan 16) against an Islamist coalition grouping al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM and the home-grown Ansar Dine and MUJWA militants. A total of 2,500 French troops are expected in Mali over the coming days but Paris is keen to swiftly hand the mission over to West Africa's ECOWAS bloc, which in December secured a United Nations mandate for a 3,300-strong mission to help Mali recapture its north.

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