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French-led forces retake key north Mali town

Published on Jan 27, 2013 9:58 AM
Malian soldiers patrol aboard a vehicule mounted with a machine gun in a street of Diabaly (400km north of the capital Bamako) on January 26, 2013. French-led Malian troops recaptured the Islamist stronghold of Gao, today, the biggest town in northern Mali, and troops from Niger and Chad "will now take up the baton," the French defence ministry said. -- PHOTO: AFP

BAMAKO (AFP) - French-led troops recaptured the Islamist stronghold of Gao, in a major boost to their 16-day offensive against Al Qaeda-linked rebels holding Mali's vast desert north.

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Saturday that the nation's troops were also advancing on Timbuktu, another key northern town held by the insurgents.

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.

France said troops from Niger and Chad "will pick up the baton" and that the mayor of Gao, Sadou Diallo, was due to return from the capital Bamako, 1,200 kilometres to the southwest.

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