BAMAKO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - French forces have killed 19 Islamist fighters during operations in Mali's northern region of Timbuktu, a French officer in the West African nation said on Tuesday.
"There were clashes north of Timbuktu on the road to Taoudenit. We neutralised 19 people. The operations are continuing," said the officer, who asked not to be named. French Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron confirmed "a heavy death toll" but gave no further details.
Pockets of al Qaeda-linked fighters are still holding out across northern Mali, nearly a year into a French offensive aimed at driving them from the desert region that they occupied for most of 2012. (Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and John Irish; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by David Lewis and Kevin Liffey)