Malian conflict continues

France’s defense minister made a surprise visit to Mali on Thursday to see French troops fighting extremists there. The Associated Press is reporting “military officials said at least 100 al-Qaida-linked fighters died in a two-week campaign to oust them from a rocky desert valley that had been their key base. French forces are in their most bloody and close-range fighting since they deployed eight weeks ago to Mali to help the West African country’s embattled government rid its vast north of militants imposing harsh Islamic rule.”