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French troops reach Mali’s far north

08.02.2013 - 14:39

On 8 February, French troops together with Chadian forces entered the strategic oasis town of Tessalit.

Tessalit, a remote oasis in far northeastern Mali near the Algerian border, is the last stronghold of Islamist fundamentalist militants in the African country.  Andrew Lebovich, a Dakar-based researcher on the Sahel and north Africa told Guardian, “the mountains around Tessalit are a natural place for the rebels to hide…this is an area where they have been hiding out for decades; there are caves and caches up there. It is totally impossible to know exactly what is going on there.”

However, despite France’s military operation a deadly gun battle took place in Bamako, the Malian capital. Government soldiers attacked a camp of elite paratroopers loyal to ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure. Amadou Diallo, a doctor who works at the infirmary in the camp, known as Djicoroni Para Camp, said to Al Jazeera there was at least one dead and five wounded. “A young man in his 20s was hit by a bullet in the head and he died on the spot. The bullet pierced his face through his right cheekbone, and came out through his neck. He was totally disfigured. There are also two women who were wounded, and three children, aged 11, 17 and around 15 years old.”

Furthermore, today, Malian military spokesman Modibo Traore confirmed that a Malian soldier was injured after a suicide bomber attacked an army checkpoint 100km north of Gao. This was the first known suicide bombing since the French forces initiated the operations in Mali.