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Mali Islamists Clash With Army After Gao Suicide Bomb

Mali’s Islamists Clash With Army After Gao Suicide Bombing
Malian soldiers stand guard in the Malian northern city of Gao. Photographer: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

Islamist insurgents from the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa battled Malian troops in the northern city of Gao after a second suicide bombing in two days.

“There were violent clashes between the Malian army and its allies and Islamists from Mujao,” Astor Bilal, an adviser to the mayor of Gao, said by phone today. The fighting happened yesterday for about four hours until the troops regained control and calm returned around 9 p.m., he said.

The attacks came after a suicide bomb attack late on Feb. 9, the second in two days, Bilal said. The insurgents entered Gao, one of the last cities where fighting is continuing a month after French airstrikes started a battle to regain control of two-thirds of Mali held by rebels.

France intervened in Mali to help it restore state control over a nation that vies with Tanzania as Africa’s third-biggest gold producer. Some of its 4,000 troops may start withdrawing in a few weeks as an African Union-backed regional force prepares to take over and hold key areas, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Feb. 6.

Ghana began airlifting 120 army engineers to Mali as its contribution to the mission, Nbawine Atintande, spokesman for the military, said by phone today. Burkina Faso, Chad, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Guinea are among the countries sending soldiers to Mali.

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