Bamako — Malian and French troops patrolled the outskirts of the contested town of Diabaly on Sunday as Paris said Russia and Canada offered to help transport foreign troops to defeat Islamists in northern Mali.
There are conflicting reports of whether the Islamists still hold the strategic outpost of Diabaly, about 400 kilometers north of the capital Bamako. The region is known for housing the most battle-hardened and fanatical Islamists.
"This mission of observation and dissuasion is mainly aimed at stopping any infiltration southwards by the militants," a Malian security official said.
Other reports said the radical Islamists were leaving areas under their control in the extreme north for the mountainous region of Kidal, 1,500 kilometers from Bamako and near the border with Algeria.