Key dates in French-led Mali offensive

A timeline of key events in Mali where France led 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, saying they will push further south. Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore asks France for help.

- 11: Malian government troops launch an offensive with French support.

- 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 Algeria grants 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: Islamists take dozens of foreign workers hostage at a gas site in Algeria's remote southeastern desert, avenging France's military effort.

- 17: Malian troops recapture 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 says the goal is a "total reconquest" of Mali.

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

- 23: Two human rights groups demand a probe into abuse accusations by Malian troops, particularly against Arabs and Tuaregs.

- 24: A new group, the Islamic Movement of Azawad, announces a split from Ansar Dine, wanting talks for a peaceful solution.

- 25: French and Malian troops recapture Hombori, 200 kilometres 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 torch a library housing valuable manuscripts, though reports said the vast majority had been removed earlier.

A breakaway faction of an Al-Qaeda-linked group and Tuareg rebels confirm joint control of Kidal, the last Islamist bastion.

- 29: Hundreds loot Timbuktu shops. Global donors pledge over $455 million (337 million euros) for the military push.

- 30: French troops enter Kidal as rebels flee into a mountainous region north of the city. UN speeds up plans for a Mali peacekeeping force.

- 31: A landmine kills two Malian soldiers in central Mali.

-- FEBRUARY 2013 --

- 1: French-led troops deploy to secure control of Kidal.

Amnesty urges France to launch a probe into the deaths of five civilians killed in a Konna helicopter attack.

- 2: President Francois Hollande gets a rapturous welcome while visiting Mali, saying France's goal is to pass the baton to African forces.

- 3: French fighter jets bomb Islamist supply bases to flush Islamists out of hiding.

Ansar Dine's number three leader is arrested.

- 4: France says it is working to quickly withdraw its forces from Timbuktu. The United States backs France's call for a rapid handover and for a UN Mali force.

- 5: Chadian troops enter and secure Kidal. The United Nations, African Union and others meet in Brussels to hammer out plans for Mali's future.