French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian arrived Thursday in northern Mali to meet with French soldiers fighting militants, the ministry said.
A French offensive began in Mali on January 11, the day after militants said they had seized the city of Konna, east of Diabaly in central Mali, and were poised to advance south toward Bamako, the capital. Islamist extremists who've taken hold in the north have banned music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television. They also destroyed historic tombs and shrines.
France has more than 2,000 soldiers on Malian soil, with 1,000 more troops supporting the operation from elsewhere. Four French soldiers have been killed in Mali since the intervention started. As for the visit, the minister met with soldiers in the northern city of Tessalit.