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A French soldier stands guard as part of the Hydra Operation on... News PhotoArmy Soldier,Bamba,Conflict,Desert,Gao Region,Horizontal,Mali,Standing,Timbuktu - Mali,VillagePhotographer Collection: AFP 2013 AFPA French soldier stands guard as part of the Hydra Operation on October 30, 2013, in a desert near the village of Bamba between Timbuktu and Gao, northern Mali. The troubled west African nation and its allies launched Operation Hydra on October 20, 2013 after being taken aback by a recent upsurge in violence in the north, according to Jean-Herve Jezequel, an analyst in Dakar for the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank. About 1,500 troops are involved, including some 600 French, 600 Malians and 300 UN soldiers, and the operation is expected to last 'as least 10 days', according to a Malian military source. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)