The French leadership originally planned to withdraw the troops in March but the mission was extended in late February amid tougher than expected resistance from Islamic fighters.
The troops were sent in January 2012 as a response to the threat posed by al-Qaeda-linked militants, who had controlled Mali's northern region since April 2012.
The military operation directed against the Islamist insurgents has thus far been successful and has prevented the rebels from reaching the capital, Bamako. French troops were supported by thousands of troops deployed by the African Union forces.
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