REUTERS OCT 10, 2013--French special forces battled "armed terrorist groups" on October 1 in the village of Douaya, north of Timbuktu, after receiving intelligence suggesting militants were in the area, Jaron said.
Militants opened fire from a pick-up truck on a French helicopter, he said. Suspected Islamists in other vehicles escaped.
"Four hours after the start of the clashes, a large number of terrorists were neutralized, by that we mean around 10 fighters," Jaron said. "They all fought to the end without wanting to surrender at any point."
A French diplomatic source said: "The contest is not over. The terrorist groups are not completely stupid, they have been waiting for the storm to pass and they are now sensing their opportunity."
A MINUSMA source said 12 pickups with suspected Islamist militants had been sighted about 60 km (40 miles) west of Timbuktu in early October.
A local Tuareg source also said that several units linked to al Qaeda's north African arm AQIM had gathered in the region.