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Major dates in French-led Mali offensive

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A timeline of key events in Mali since France launched a military push to wrest control of the country's north from Islamist fighters.

-- JANUARY 2013 --

- 10: Islamists capture the government-held central town of Konna and say they will push further south. Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore asks France for help.

- 11: With French support, Malian government troops launch an offensive against the Islamists.

- 12: France announces the death of a French helicopter pilot.

- 13: French air strikes target Islamist bases in the northern regions of Gao and Kidal, as France says Algeria has granted warplanes access to its airspace.

- 14: Rebels abandon key northern bases but seize the town of Diabaly in government-held territory, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the capital Bamako, vowing to "strike at the heart of France".

- 15: France engages ground troops for the first time.

- 16: The crisis escalates as Islamists hold dozens of foreign workers hostage at a gas site in Algeria's remote southeastern desert in revenge for France's military effort.

- 17: The Malian army retakes the town of Konna.

- 19: Algerian special forces storm the gas complex, ending the hostage drama. At least 37 foreign hostages and one Algerian hostage are killed, along with 29 hostage-takers.

- 20: French troops prepare to advance north to the central towns of Niono and Sevare. France's defence minister says the goal of the operation is the "total reconquest" of Mali.

- 21: French and Malian troops recapture the towns of Diabaly and Douentza. US logistical aid begins.

- 23: Two human rights groups demand a probe into accusations of abuses by Malian troops, against Arabs and Tuaregs in particular.

- 24: A new group, the Islamic Movement of Azawad, announces it has split from Ansar Dine and wants talks for a "peaceful solution."

- 25: French and Malian troops recapture Hombori, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Gao.

- 26: French-led troops recapture Gao.

- 27: French air strikes on Kidal destroy the home of Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly.

- 28: Malian and French forces recapture Timbuktu, where rebels torched a library containing valuable manuscripts.

A breakaway faction of an Al-Qaeda-linked group and Tuareg rebels confirm joint control of Kidal, the last Islamist bastion left for French-led troops to reconquer.

- 29: Hundreds of Malians loot Timbuktu shops, as global donors pledge over $455 million (337 million euros) for the military push.

- 30: French troops enter Kidal. Rebel leaders are hiding out in a mountainous region north of the city, according to a Malian security source. UN speeds up planning for a peacekeeping force in Mali.

- 31: A landmine suspected to have been planted by Islamists kills two Malian soldiers en route between Douentza and Hombori.

French defence minister says he supports possible UN plans for Mali peacekeeping force.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130131/major-dates-french-led-mali-offensive