France has withdrawn its first batch of soldiers from Mali, as it begins to pull out troops sent to battle rebel fighters in the west African nation.
Paris, which sent 4,000 troops to Mali in January to block a feared advance on the capital Bamako from the north, is preparing to hand over to a UN-mandated African force of 6,300 in the coming weeks.
It will gradually pull its soldiers out of the country, where its intervention has driven insurgents from most of their northern strongholds, but plans to leave a permanent 1,000-strong force in the country.
The military's chief of staff said on Tuesday that around 100 soldiers had been withdrawn and sent to Paphos in Cyprus on Monday, where they will spend three days in a hotel before heading back to France.
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