Bamako - Mali's president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita flew
to Chad to thank the central African country for its backing in Bamako's fight
against armed groups linked to al-Qaeda, his office said on Tuesday.
Keita was in Chad for just a few hours on Monday to honour
troops who fought to liberate Mali's northern towns and cities from an Islamist
occupation lasting several months in 2012, presidential aide Sandi Toure told
AFP in Bamako.
"It is our duty to thank all those who helped
Mali," Toure said.
Keita, who will be sworn in next week, met President Idriss
Deby Itno in the eastern desert town of Iriba, where the Chadian head of state
is spending his holidays, a statement from Chad's presidency said.
"He came to express his gratitude to his counterpart
Idriss Deby, to the Chadian people and to the army for its supreme
sacrifice," said the statement, adding that Keita returned on the same day
The 2 000 Chadian soldiers of the African-led International
Support Mission in Mali were at the forefront of a French-led military
intervention launched in January to oust Islamist rebels who had taken over
northern Mali in the chaos following a coup.
Chad lost at least 38 men in battle, with the heaviest
fighting taking place in the north-eastern Ifoghas mountains.