French troops upped to 1,400 in Mali

French soldiers prepare ammunitions at a military airbase in the Malian capital Bamako on January 16, 2013.

France says it has currently 1,400 soldiers deployed in Mali, where the French military has been battling militants controlling the northern parts of the West African country.

The Defense Ministry said on Thursday that a total of 1,400 French soldiers are deployed in Mali, 600 more than the figure given on Wednesday, AFP reported.

The ministry added that the number of troops would increase to 2,500 as France expands its military campaign against the militants, who have seized much of the African nation.

Intense fighting has been going on between French forces and the rebels in the central town of Diabaly, which was seized by the militants earlier this week.

A convoy of militants has also reportedly left Diabaly and is heading to the town of Banamba, about 220 kilometers (136 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako.

France had said earlier that its ground forces had stayed out of the fighting, limiting its intervention in Mali to aerial assaults. On January 16, however, French troops launched ground attacks against rebel forces in the African country.

On January 11, France intervened in Mali by launching an air offensive under the pretext of halting the advance of the militants.

Chaos broke out in Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government’s inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months.

However, in the wake of the coup d’état, the Tuareg rebels took control of the entire northern desert region, but the Ansar Dine extremists then pushed them aside and took control of the region, which is larger than France or Texas.