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Hollande to visit Mali on Saturday

French President Francois Hollande, Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Mali on Saturday, Hollande's office announced on Friday.

Hollande to visit Mali on Saturday
Hollande greets the public on a trip to Grenoble. Opinion polls suggest Mali has not changed the views towards him ofthe French people. Philippe Desmazes/ pool / AFP

Development Minister Pascal Canin will also make the trip, which follows a three-week military intervention in the former colony in which French forces have recaptured large areas of northern Mali from Islamist groups.

There has been reports in the French press that Hollande and members of his government would be paying a trip to Mali, with daily Liberation the first to publish the news that the President was on his way to the Mali capital.

"According to our information, the president will fly on Friday evening and would be landing in Bamako on Saturday morning where he will meet Mali's acting President Dioncounda Traoré," Libération reporte.

The newspaper claimed Hollande plans to visit Timbuktu, recently liberated by French and Malian forces from the hands of the Islamist rebels.

The trip comes as troops are gathered at the gates of Kidal, a sandy northeastern outpost that is the last rebel stronghold in the poor west African country, poised to secure the town after capturing its airport on Wednesday.

The French-led campaign has claimed a rapid succession of victories in key Islamist strongholds where citizens greeted troops with euphoria.

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WAR

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.

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