"There were clashes north of Timbuktu on the road to Taoudenit. We neutralized 19 people. The operations are continuing," said the officer, who asked not to be named. French Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron confirmed "a heavy death toll" but gave no further details.
Pockets of al Qaeda-linked fighters are still holding out across northern Mali, nearly a year into a French offensive aimed at driving them from the desert region that they occupied for most of 2012.