Connect to share and comment

Mali conflict: Gao courthouse ablaze amid fighting between Malian troops, Islamist rebels

Heavy fighting between Malian troops and Islamist insurgents broke out overnight in the northern city of Gao, leaving the main courthouse on fire.

Mali gao courthouse fighting feb 21 2013Enlarge
A man walks on February 14, 2013 in a street of the city of Gao, northern Mali. Mali risks descending into "catastrophic" violence, the UN rights chief has warned, after a string of attacks by Islamist rebels increased the pressure on French-led forces in the west African nation. At right, a board with an inscription in homage to late French soldier Damien Boiteux, an helicopter pilot killed during the first days of the military operation in Mali. (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

The main courthouse in the northern Mali city of Gao went ablaze following clashes between Malian troops and Islamist rebels, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday.

Troops were battling “a group of around 40 insurgents” after fighting broke out overnight, Radio France International reported, citing a military source.

At least three rebels had been killed, according to the RFI report.

"Our forces are currently confronting the jihadists near the Gao townhouse. They have infiltrated the city and we are currently retaliating," Amadou Diarra, a Malian army captain.

A Reuters reporter in Gao said Malian troops opened fire on the mayor's office where suspected Islamist gunmen were hiding.

French and Malian troops drove out Al Qaeda-linked Islamists from Gao, northern Mali's biggest city, last month within two weeks of France's intervention in the former colony and have been patrolling the city ever since. 

More from GlobalPost: Mali: Life under Al Qaeda