PARIS, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- A French soldier has been killed while fighting Islamist rebels in northern Mali, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.
"A legionnaire from the 22nd parachute regiment has died in a clash with Islamists in northern Mali," Hollande told reporters during a visit to Greece.
"We are now in the final phase of the operation. The goal is not to stop the terrorist group, or to secure the territory, that's was done. But it is to go until the end, which means the arrest of the last terrorist leaders in northern Mali," he added.
Meanwhile, the French military said Tueaday more than 20 militants have been killed in the northern Mali operation.
At the start of Seval operation on Jan. 11, a French pilot has been killed after his helicopter was shot down near the central Mali town of Mopti.
In a recent TV interview, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian drew a "positif stock" of French military operation after inflicting "heavy losses" on al Qaeda-linked insurgents.
"... We have provoked many hundreds of dead (rebels) and heavy logistic and technical damage in camp trainings," he told the local news channel BFMTV.