France has launched a joint military operation with the United Nations against jihadist movements in Mali, according to AFP.
The purpose of the "Hydra" operation, which takes place 10 months after the military campaign to drive al-Qaida militants out of the country and liberate Timbuktu from the yoke of Islamist rule, is to avoid the revival of "terrorist movements" in the region according to French Col. Gilles Jaron.
"We have engaged along with the Malian army and the Minusma [UN force in Mali] in a large-scale operation in the north and south of the Niger," he said.
The aim of Hydra is "to put pressure on the potential terrorist movements to avoid their resurgence [...] This is one of those operations that are conducted regularly [...] to participate in the stability of the country, " the official said, specifying that the operation is not in response to recent attacks by jihadists.
Jaron was referring to the killing of two Chadian UN peacekeepers and a civilian in a suicide car attack in northern Mali, following an ambush.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack which may suggest an escalation in Islamist violence in the west African nation.
The French offensive which drove Islamist groups out of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu did not manage to remove groups such as the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) completely from the country.
Paris has 3,000 troops in the former colony.