BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A Malian security official says French forces have arrested eight jihadists in the desert north of Timbuktu.

The official said Wednesday that seven were arrested Monday near Foum El Alba and identified themselves as fighters with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. He says the eighth was arrested by the same patrol while on his motorcycle. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't permitted to speak to the press.

An airport worker confirmed that soldiers escorted eight men with their hands tied behind their backs in Timbuktu.

Such arrests in Mali's north are frequent, with 600 suspected Islamic extremists detained since 2013. That's when French-backed forces managed to push them from strongholds they took in 2012.