Deaths come amid new French military operation aimed at pockets of al Qaeda-linked fighters still holding out across the north of Mali.
French and Malian troops were engaged this weekend in a battle with Islamist rebels who resurfaced in the northern Mali town of Timbuktu.
Following the recapture of Timbuktu, the last major target in the Franco-Malian drive against Islamist rebels, Paris looks to step down its role.
French paratroopers have taken control of the airport and roads surrounding fabled Malian desert town of Timbuktu as Islamists flee.
French and Malian forces secure the northern Mali town of Gao, once an Islamist stronghold, and advance on to the key town of Timbuktu.
The name Timbuktu has taken on an almost mythical status in Western thought, one fuelled by the remoteness of the town in Mali. In destroying tombs recently in this “pearl of the desert” an Islamist group has both launched an attack on the holy sites of other Muslims and thrown down a challenge to the West, who recently put the famous town on the UNESCO list of endangered World Heritage sites. In an interview with Joseph Confavreux, French historian Charles Grémont gives the background to current events in Mali and the threat posed to Timbuktu.