Joint French and Islamist troops secured the Islamist rebel stronghold of Bourem on February 17th, as the fifth week of the French intervention in the former colony continues.
"Bourem is a bastion of Islamists," a military official from AFISMA said to Reuters of the northern Malian town, which is located roughly 50 miles north of Gao.
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The official added that "All the current problems in Gao come from Bourem" while speaking to Reuters, a threat that the joint troops hope to have neutralized.
The successful takeover comes after two suicide attacks on the road from Bourem to Gao, leading to fears of an increasingly violent insurgency in Mali, writes the Associated Press, which adds that "about 1,000" troops are currently in Bourem.
Rebels also conducted a surprise raid on Gao last week, killing three Islamists raiders and wounding some Malian soldiers in the street-fighting, wrote Reuters.