Paris (AFP) - Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said Sunday his participation at a massive rally in Paris against terrorism carried special significance as it came exactly two years after French troops launched an offensive against Islamists in his country.
"I had expected to celebrate another type of anniversary with you, the French. On January 11, 2013, my country was saved from the terrorist barbarism by (the French military operation) Serval," he said after the march.
"Do you understand my emotions, it is impossible for me to not be here," said Keita.
France launched Operation Serval in 2013 to stop Al-Qaeda-linked militants and Tuareg rebels who had seized northern Mali from advancing on the capital Bamako.
"I had the honour of marching alongside Francois Hollande, to his right, which is a sign of real friendship... which links our people," said the Malian president.