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Key dates in French-led Mali offensive

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

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 towards the capital Bamako. Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore asks France for help.

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

- 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 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, in an attack they say is to avenge France's intervention in Mali.

- 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.

- 26: French-led troops recapture Gao.

- 28: Malian and French forces recapture Timbuktu.

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

- 29: 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.

-- FEBRUARY 2013 --

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

- 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.

- Tuareg former rebels say they are working with French forces.

- Paris gives its first official toll of several hundred Islamists killed in airstrikes and direct combat since the start of its intervention. The French defence ministry says France has lost one soldier, while "two or three" have suffered light injuries.

- 6: French and Malian troops clashed a day earlier with Islamist rebels near Gao, Paris says, saying it is in a "real war" to reclaim northern Mali.

- A landmine blast between the towns of Douentza and Gao kills four civilians, police say.

- Hollande confirms that a drawdown of the 4,000 French forces in Mali will begin in March as long as the military operation there continues to go well.

- 7: French and Chadian troops arrive at the far northern town of Aguelhok.

- 8: French forces say they take control of strategic town Tessalit.

- Al-Qaeda offshoot the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) claims responsibility for a suicide bombing at an army checkpoint, the first such attack since the offensive against the Islamists began.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130208/key-dates-french-led-mali-offensive