Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola in Nigeria: First death outside of Lagos

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Niger : Top Oppostion figure to be questioned in baby trafficking scandal

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Liberia: President dismisses top officials who ignored call back

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

Read more

DEBATE

How to Stop Ebola: WHO Says Cases Could Exceed 20,000 (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

How to Stop Ebola: WHO Says Cases Could Exceed 20,000

Read more

WEB NEWS

'Ice Bucket Challenge' angers anti-abortion activists

Read more

#TECH 24

Tomorrow's Transport Today

Read more

FOCUS

Mothers and children leaving Honduras at all costs

Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

  • Russian troops have entered Ukraine, says Kiev

    Read more

  • PSG face Barcelona, Ajax in tough Champions League draw

    Read more

  • In pictures: Billions of locusts invade Madagascan capital

    Read more

  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie say ‘I do’ in France

    Read more

  • Erdogan sworn in as Turkey's president

    Read more

  • Assad cannot be partner in fight against terrorism, says Hollande

    Read more

  • New Ebola case in Nigeria brings death toll to 1,552

    Read more

  • Video: 'Neither Baghdad nor the US can defeat the Islamic State'

    Read more

  • Platini will not run against Blatter for FIFA presidency

    Read more

  • Air France pilots announce week-long strike in September

    Read more

  • New French economy minister takes swipe at 35-hour work week

    Read more

  • Uzi shooting by 9-year-old rekindles gun debate

    Read more

  • Mother of American journalist asks IS leader for his release

    Read more

  • UN probe accuses Syrian regime, Islamists of ‘crimes against humanity’

    Read more

  • Uruguayans sign up to grow marijuana at home

    Read more

  • Missouri governor appoints black public safety director

    Read more

Africa

French-led forces in Mali retake Gao

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-01-27

French-led forces retook Mali’s northern city of Gao from Islamist rebel control, France’s defence ministry said on Saturday, in the greatest military success yet of a campaign to recapture the country’s north.

French-led troops Saturday recaptured the Islamist stronghold of Gao in a spectacular boost to a 16-day-old offensive against Al Qaeda-linked rebels holding Mali's vast desert north.

The seizure of Gao, the most populated town in Mali's northern region which is roughly the size of Texas, was announced by the French defence ministry and confirmed by Malian security sources.

Paris said troops from Niger and Chad "will pick up the baton" and that the town's mayor Sadou Diallo would arrive in Gao from the capital Bamako later Saturday.

"A first contingent of Malian, Chadian and Nigerien troops are presently in Gao to help secure the town," a Malian security source told AFP by telephone from the town.

In a parallel pincer-like movement, troops from Chad and Niger moved towards the Malian border from the Niger town of Ouallam, which lies about 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of Gao.

The French-led forces had overnight seized Gao's airport and a key bridge on the southern entrance of the town, held by the Al Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).

French defence ministry sources said a report in French newspaper Le Monde that hundreds of Islamists had died since the French military intervention in Mali was "plausible."

An alliance of Tuareg rebels who wanted to declare an independent homeland in the north and hardline Islamist groups seized the northern towns of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal in April last year after a coup in Bamako.

The Islamist groups include MUJAO, Ansar Dine, a homegrown Islamist group, and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, of which MUJAO is an offshoot.

The Islamists then sidelined the Tuaregs to implement their own agenda. Their harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law has seen transgressors flogged, stoned and executed, and they have forbidden music and television and forced women to wear veils.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the troops were currently "around Gao and (will be) soon near Timbuktu," a fabled caravan town on the edge of the Sahara desert which for centuries was a key centre of Islamic learning.

The MUJAO meanwhile said it was ready for negotiations to release Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, a French national of Portuguese origin who was kidnapped in western Mali in November.

"The MUJAO is ready to negotiate the release of Gilberto," said spokesman Walid Abu Sarhaoui. "We Muslims can come to an understanding on the issue of war," he added, without elaborating.

But Ayrault snubbed the offer, saying "we will not give in to blackmail" and added: "We cannot cede to terrorism because if this is the case they will win every time."

West African defence chiefs meanwhile met to review the slow deployment of regional forces to bolster the French-led offensive against Islamist militants at an emergency meeting in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan.

Although the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc has pledged more than 4,500 soldiers, their deployment has been delayed by financing and logistical problems.

Chad, which neighbours Mali and is not an ECOWAS member, has promised a total of 2,000 additional troops. They were sent to Niger to join 500 local troops to open a new front against the Islamists.

While a fraction of the African forces has arrived in Bamako and is slowly deploying elsewhere, the French and Malian forces have done all the fighting so far.

France has already deployed 2,500 troops to Mali.
 

(AFP)

Date created : 2013-01-25

  • MALI

    Mali rebel group splits, one faction ready for talks

    Read more

  • MALI

    Aid groups warn of humanitarian crisis in Mali's north

    Read more

  • FRANCE 24 EXCLUSIVE

    Mali's army may be behind abuses, France says

    Read more

COMMENT(S)