N'DJAMENA, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- More than a dozen Chadian soldiers died Friday in a fighting in northern Mali which also killed 65 al Qaida-linked Islamist rebels, the Chadian army said.
The casualties were the heaviest for African and French troops since the start of their military campaign against the Malian rebels, which hold the northern part of the Western African country.
"We deplore the deaths of 13 of our valiant soldiers," the army general staff said in a statement, adding that five rebel vehicles were destroyed and 65 rebels were killed.
Chad, which has sent 2,000 troops to Mali together with some other African countries, wants to take over the leadership of the operation from France, which plans to withdraw its soldiers starting next month.
Earlier this week, Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko announced that large-scale military operations in his country "are coming to an end."