French special forces killed around 10 militants in a gun battle in northern Mali this month, Paris has said. The simmering violence is threatening security at next month's elections and delaying a French troop withdrawal.
France, which sent soldiers to its former colony in January to oust militants who had taken over swathes of the West African country, will not draw down troop numbers to 1,000, from 3,200, by year-end as initially planned, a spokesman confirmed.
"We want to continue our reduction of troops to 1,000 by late January, early February," armed forces spokesman Gilles Jaron said.
French officials previously said the withdrawal could be put back by elections on 24 November.