Feb. 1 - Nearly 2,000 troops from Chad and Niger back up French and Malian forces in northern Mali. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
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Troops from Niger and Chad on the ground as France prepares to gradually transfer its mission in Mali.
A U.N.-backed African force made up of some 8,000 soldiers is expected to take responsibility.
An officer from Niger says they have their own stake in the fight.
(SOUNDBITE) (Hausa) NIGER CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER, MOHAMED BEN SINA, SAYING:
"We came to help the Malian army to secure their territory. We are here because we are share the same border and so we we are also very concerned by this threat."
France has deployed more than 3,500 ground forces in a three-week campaign to wrest control of northern Mali from an al Qaeda-linked alliance.
The next step may be a tougher task, as troops pursue fighters in remote areas near Algeria's border.
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