BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — French troops pressed northward in Mali toward territory occupied by radical Islamists today, military officials said, announcing the start of a land assault that will put soldiers in direct combat “within hours.”

French ground operations began overnight in Mali, Adm. Edouard Guillaud, the French military chief of staff, said on Europe 1 television. France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on RTL radio that soldiers were headed away from the relative safety of the capital toward the rebel strongholds in the north.



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