Mali regains control of strategic city

FRENCH AND MALIAN troops recapture Gao, a day after rebels launched an attack for the first time since their defeat.

FRENCH AND MALIAN troops recapture Gao, a day after rebels launched an attack for the first time since their defeat.

French and Malian government forces have regained control of the strategic northern city of Gao, after rebels hiding in the police central station opened fire on Malian troops a day earlier, sparking an hours-long street battle.

Francois Hollande, the French president, on Monday said his goal is that “not one space of Mali’s territory be under the control of terrorists”.

A French attack helicopter destroyed the police headquarters in Gao in a pre-dawn assault, after rebels penetrated the city of mud-walled buildings and launched an assault for the first time since they fled two weeks ago.

The attack by the fighters came after two suicide bombers tried to attack military checkpoints on Gao’s outskirts.

Early on Monday, hundreds of Gao residents gathered around the heavily damaged police headquarters where body parts lay strewn about.

Sunday’s gun battle

Fighters from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, had ruled Gao for nearly 10 months before they were routed out at the end of January.

The rebels, armed with AK-47 automatic rifles, returned to the city by crossing the Niger River in wooden boats to launch their assault on Sunday afternoon, French General Bernard Barrera said citing the Malian military.

The gun battles lasted more than five hours.

Malian Lieutenant-Colonel Nema Sagadam said that it was unclear how many fighters had penetrated the city in Sunday’s attack, though at least 10 were killed by Malian forces.

Malian soldiers fired on the police building because the fighters were hiding inside, she said.

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