APNewsBreak: Officials say French forces to remain in Mali until at least July

Three French officials say French forces will remain in the West African country of Mali at least until July amid fiercer-than-expected resistance from Islamic extremists, despite official promises to begin a quick pullout within weeks.

The government has said France could start withdrawing its 4,000 troops in Mali next month. But the fighting in rugged terrain is growing tougher and threats of suicide bombings and hostage-takings are getting worse.

One French diplomat acknowledged this week that a French military presence is expected to remain for at least six months. Two other French officials said the French will remain at least until July, when France is hoping that Mali can hold elections.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the military campaign.