(CNN) — French-led troops in Mali now control the ancient city of Timbuktu, the city of Gao and the swath in between that was an Islamist stronghold for almost a year, the French Defense Ministry said.
“We are winning in Mali,” French President Francois Hollande said at a news conference Monday, but he added that militants still control parts of the north.
Hollande did not say how long France will maintain troops in its former colony.
The country has 2,150 soldiers on Malian soil, with 1,000 more troops supporting the operation from elsewhere.
The United States has also stepped up its involvement in the conflict by conducting aerial refueling missions on top of the intelligence and airlift support it was already providing.
Britain said Tuesday it will provide military support but won’t take part in combat. The United Kingdom is prepared to deploy up to 40 troops to a European Union military training mission in Mali, and up to 200 troops as trainers in English-speaking West African countries, British Defence Minister Philip Hammond told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
In addition, the European Union said Tuesday it will contribute $67 million to support the African-led International Support Mission to Mali.
The nations are joined together in an effort to prevent the Islamists from turning the once peaceful democracy into a haven for international terrorists.
The Islamic extremists carved out a large portion in northern Mali last year, taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup by the separatist party MNLA. They banned music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television. They also destroyed historic tombs and shrines there.