Islamist militants have taken control of Diabali, a city in central Mali, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday.

"They took Diabali this morning after extensive combat and the resistance of the army of Mali, which was insufficiently equipped at that time," the defense minister told the BFM network.

Air strikes continue in an effort to regain control of the small town, which is located about 400 kilometers (249 miles) from Bamako in a wooded area near the border with Mauritania, Le Drian said.

The rebels are "extremely well armed and organized," Le Drian said.

The French mission, which was authorized last Friday by President Francois Hollande, will last a "certain time," the defense minister said.

France said Saturday it had deployed troops to Bamako protect its citizens living in Mali's capital and was trying to halt the advance of Islamist militants, who control much of that West African country's northern region. EFE