Sandstorm blocks French Mali force at Kidal airport
French forces who took control of Kidal airport in northern Mali are temporarily unable to leave the facility because of a sandstorm, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday.
Le Drian told a parliamentary committee that French troops had seized the airport overnight but had since become stuck there because of the adverse conditions.
"We are in a special situation in Kidal and we are working to establish harmonious relations with the Tuaregs," Le Drian said.
Kidal was the stronghold of Ansar Dine, an armed Islamist group led by a former leader of Tuareg rebels fighting for self-rule in the north of the country.
The group has this week split into rival factions with one branch indicating it will seek a political settlement with the Malian authorities.
Le Drian told the committee that France now has 3,500 soldiers on the ground in Mali. An extra 600 are due to arrive in the next few days and a further contingent of 270 troops will follow, he added.
© 2013 AFP