Key dates in French-led Mali intervention

A timeline of key events in Mali since France two months ago intervened in its former colony to wrest control of the country's north from Islamist fighters.

-- JANUARY 2013 --

- 11: France launches its operation Serval, aimed at halting the advance of armed Islamists and supporting Malian government troops, a day after Islamists captured the government-held central town of Konna, saying they will push further south towards the capital Bamako.

- 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: The crisis takes on a new dimension, when Islamists take hundreds of Algerian and 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.

- 21: French and Malian troops recapture Diabaly and Douentza.

- 23: A Paris-based rights group says Malian soldiers have carried out multiple summary executions since the start of the French-backed offensive.

- 26: French-led troops recapture Gao in the north.

- 28: Malian and French forces recapture Timbuktu, also in the north.

- 30: French troops retake control of Kidal airport. Some 1,800 Chadian soldiers arrive in the following days to secure the town.


- 2: Visiting French President Francois Hollande promises that France will stay as long as necessary and says that "terrorism...has not been defeated yet".

- 8: After the far northern town of Aguelhok, French and Chadian soldiers take control of strategic town Tessalit.

- 10: Rebel gunmen attack Gao in the first large-scale urban guerrilla assault of the conflict.

- 18: The start of an operation aimed at expelling Islamists from the mountainous Iforhas region in the north-east. Violent clashes have since opposed French and Chadian soldiers and Islamists there.

- 22: The United States has deployed several Predator drones to Niger to fly surveillance missions in support of French forces in Mali, a US defence official says.

-- MARCH --

- 4: Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno says his country's forces have killed two top Islamist militants in Mali -- Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, on February 22 and March 2 respectively.

- 6: A French soldier is killed in clashes with Islamist fighters near Gao, becoming the fourth French soldier to die in action since the intervention began. The French army says "several hundred" Islamist fighters have been killed.

- Hollande says his country will begin pulling out its 4,000 troops as of April.

- 7-8: French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says during a visit to Mali the French intervention force has wrapped up most of its work but there are still two pockets of resistance in the north.

- 9: Chad's 2,000-strong contingent in Mali, which has played a leading part in the fight against jihadist militants, officially joins the regional African force deployed there. A Tuareg separatist group in the north, the Azawad National Liberation Movement, meanwhile "categorically rejects" an ECOWAS demand for rebels to disarm as a pre-condition for talks with the Malian government.