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French Take On Last Mali Rebel Stronghold

Photo credit- Isafmedia via Photopin, CC

French forces have entered Kidal, the last major stronghold of Islamist militants who seized control of northern Mali last year.

By VOA News, Jan. 30, 2013:

The French military said Wednesday that troops took control of the Kidal airport and deployed in the town overnight, continuing a week-long push to retake the north’s population centers.Haminy Maiga, head of the Kidal regional assembly, said the French troops encountered no resistance.

The secular Tuareg rebel group MNLA said earlier this week that its fighters had taken control of Kidal.The MNLA joined with Islamists to seize northern Mali after a coup last March.  The groups later split in a dispute about Sharia law and the Islamists asserted control of the region.Meanwhile, the vast majority of ancient manuscripts in the Malian city of Timbuktu are reported to be safe.

The city’s mayor reported that Islamists set fire to a major manuscript library as they fled the town.

But Shamil Jeppie, an expert on the manuscripts at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said Wednesday that his sources say most of the books and papers were hidden by local residents during the Islamists’ 10-month rule.

French and Malian troops searched houses in Timbuktu and Gao on Tuesday, recovering weapons and explosives left by fleeing Islamists.  At least five people suspected of collaborating with the militants were detained in Gao.

In Timbuktu, residents looted stores owned by Arabs and Tuaregs suspected of working with the militants, who left earlier this week.

French troops entered Mali two weeks ago when the Islamists began moving towards the capital, Bamako.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday that France will stay in Mali as long as necessary.  But, there are already plans for an African-led force to take over peacekeeping duties.

International donors pledged $455 million Tuesday for a peacekeeping mission expected to cost as much as $1 billion.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says France wants international monitors sent to Mali as quickly as possible, to ensure that human rights are respected.

Photo credit: Isafmedia via Photopin, CC

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