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French FM says military operation in Mali to help free national hostages

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Friday said Paris military commitment to help quash Islamist rebels in Malian territory will help release French hostages kidnapped in the Sahel region.

"We must have in mind that the abductors are the same groups who move to south Mali, thus preventing them and responding with an extremely firm way we are serving the same cause: release of hostages," French top diplomat told reporters.

"The hostages have been since long months in an extremely dangerous situation ... We will do everything to save them," he added.

The minister also confirmed that French air force carried out an air strike in Mali on Friday in support of government forces, but did not give further details.

Defying insurgents' threats to kill French hostages in case of Paris involvement in a military intervention in the west African country, French President Francois Hollande announced French forces' support to Malian army units to fight against al-Qaeda linked insurgents.

French nationals have been the target of Islamist groups in the Sahel region in response to French military commitment in Afghanistan and to continued support of Malian authorities to oust Islamists insurgents from the northern region of Mali.

Seven French nationals are already in the hands of kidnappers in the region.

[Source: Xinhua, Paris, 11Jan13]

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