PARIS, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- French President Francois Hollande said on Monday France and its African partners are winning the battle against Islamist rebels in northern Mali.
"We are in process of winning this battle. As I say, it is the Malian army, it is the Africans that are supported by the French," Holland told a press conference at the Elysee Palace.
Hollande's remarks came as media reports said French-Malian forces on Monday took control of Timbuku town in the northern region of Mali which was occupied by Islamist rebels since last April.
The French president reiterated that France has no intention to stay in Mali and will take a step back "to the starting points."
He stressed that it is now up to Africans to permit the West African country "restore its territorial integrity."
"They are the ones who will go to the northern part, which we know is the most difficult because that's the place where terrorists are hiding," the president added.
According to the French defence ministry, the retake of the Timbuktu city in northern Mali is "initiated" by French-Malian armies.
Spokesman of the General Staff of the armed forces, Colonel Thierry Burkhard, also confirmed the retake of the city of Gao, where "units of Mali, Niger and Chad who control the city" are stationed.
The French army launched the "Operation Serval" in Mali on Jan. 11 to prevent the progression of jihadist groups, who have controlled the North since last year, from moving to the south of the West African country. So far France has deployed 2,900 troops in the Malian operation.