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France: 10 Islamists Killed in Timbuktu

  • VOA News

Map of Timbuktu, Mali

Map of Timbuktu, Mali

France says about 10 Islamist fighters were killed Thursday as French and Malian forces repelled an attack on the northern Mali city of Timbuktu.

A French army spokesman, Thierry Burkhard, said in Paris that two Malian soldiers were slightly wounded in the overnight clash.

Timbuktu residents reported hearing several hours of gunfire and seeing French warplanes overhead. They said fighting died down by morning.

The clash followed a suicide bombing at a Malian army checkpoint near the Timbuktu airport late Wednesday. The bomber and one Malian soldier were killed, while at least two other soldiers were wounded.

It was the first suicide attack in Timbuktu since a French-led offensive drove Islamist militants out of their northern Mali strongholds in January.

On Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande said military operations in Mali are in their last phase.

Analysts fear al-Qaida-linked militants could return to northern Mali's cities and towns after the French withdraw their 4,000 troops from the region.

The Malian army remains weak, and an African force meant to take over from the French lacks funding and training.

Mali was plunged into crisis last year when soldiers overthrew the president, enabling Islamist militants to seize control of the north. The militants imposed a harsh form of Islamic law on the region. French forces intervened when the Islamists began moving south toward the capital.

Most of the recent fighting has been in the Ifoghas mountains of northeastern Mali, where militants fled after their retreat.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
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