France has also continued its airstrikes against Islamist groups. More than 1,400 French soldiers are already present in Mali, a figure that will soon reach 2,500 men, according to Paris.
The Malian army has resumed on Thursday claimed to have "total control" of Konna "after suffering heavy losses to the enemy." The town, on the road to the capital Bamako, January 10 fell into the hands of Islamist fighters, which had precipitated the French intervention. Paris feared a breakthrough jihadists to Bamako (south).
"The most important battles took place in Ndégué, 20 km from Konna. We crushed the enemy," he assured Colonel Didier Dakouo, who heads the Malian forces in the area.
Fighting had opposed Wednesday, then at night, the Malian soldiers, supported by French soldiers in armed Islamists near Konna. It took new French airstrikes Thursday for the Malian soldiers could enter the city, according to a security source.
A Diabali, French and Malian forces "are now conducting search operations," said the mayor. "There are a lot of burnt out vehicles that Islamists trying to hide in the orchards."
Several diplomats at the UN say, on condition of anonymity, that Paris has underestimated the military capabilities of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the MUJAO Touareg Ansar Dine, the three groups Islamists threaten to walk Bamako.
"They are better trained than the French had originally planned and they are fighting harder than what was expected," has said a Western diplomat.
French representatives at the UN do not dispute this misjudgment. They suggest that Paris was too optimistic. Some diplomats believe, however, that the situation could change after the planned deployment of 2,000 Chadian soldiers, renowned for their knowledge of fighting in desert terrain.