French defense minister: Extremists in Mali attack near French-held city of Gao

France's defense minister says French forces clashed with extremists firing rocket launchers near the northern Malian city of Gao.

Gao has been held by French-led forces since late January, and the clashes highlight complications for the intervention.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Europe-1 radio Wednesday that "it's a real war ... when we go outside of the center of cities that have been taken, we meet residual jihadists."

He said French aircraft are continuing airstrikes every night on suspected militant arms depots and mine-making sites.

France launched a military intervention Jan. 11 against Islamist extremists who had taken over northern Mali and started pushing toward the capital. A U.N.-authorized African force is starting to take over from French forces in cities that were seized at the outset of the intervention.