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Gunfire in Mali's Gao after Islamist 'attack'

Residents of northern Mali's largest city reported prolonged gunfire Sunday as the military carried out what it called a "clean-up" operation after Islamist militants claimed an attack on an army camp. "We're currently carrying out a clean-up to dislodge any Islamists that may have infiltrated" the city of Gao, said a Malian military source. "Some individuals fired three AK-47 shots at a Malian military camp in Gao overnight," the source added. "Our men responded forcefully. We see it as a very minimal incident. You can't even call it an attack."

German defence minister urges Mali troops to ensure security

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere on a visit to Mali Monday stressed that it was up to the Malian army to ensure security in the nation, after French and African troops have driven Islamist rebels out of their northern strongholds. "There will only be a good development of the situation, in a lasting way, if the Malian military forces themselves ensure security," he said after meeting with Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore. During his visit De Maiziere met with German soldiers deployed to support French and African troops fighting the Islamist extremists.

Burkinabe soldier killed by crash in Mali manoeuvres

DIABALY, Mali (Reuters) - A Burkinabe soldier was killed when a Malian army helicopter crashed into his vehicle during a military exercise, a spokesman said on Thursday, underscoring the challenge for African forces to take over from France in the fight against Islamist rebels. Malian army spokesman Modibo Nama Traore said the incident took place on Wednesday near the town of Diabaly in central Mali during a joint training exercise between France, Mali and the AFISMA force of African nations.

At least 50 Islamists killed in Mali since Friday: military

At least 50 Al-Qaeda-linked rebel fighters have been killed in recent days in clashes with French and Malian troops near the town of Gao in northern Mali, a Malian military source told AFP on Sunday. "Fighting continues on Sunday morning some 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Gao between Islamists and Malian troops supported by the French army. We have the situation under control," said a Malian military source contacted by phone from the capital Bamako.

Austria approves medical troops for Mali

Austria's parliament gave the green light on Wednesday for sending a small number of troops to conflict-torn Mali to provide medical assistance and help with possible evacuations. The medical personnel will join a German contingent travelling to Mali in mid-March to assist a nine-person EU Training Mission (EUTM), the defence ministry said in a statement following the parliamentary vote. Austria said it might send about 20 troops and a C-130 Hercules plane to help with air cargo and evacuations.

Macabre exhibit at Gao city hall

A severed head, a mangled leg and shredded flesh rotting in the sun: not your typical souvenir photo, but hundreds of Malians streamed to the Gao city hall on Saturday, the scene of an epic battle this week, to see the remains of their former tormentors. Mobile phones in hand, they wanted to record the defeat of the militants who attacked the city before rigging themselves with explosives and holing themselves up in the town hall. They died in a hail of Malian army gunfire.

Mali troops battle Islamists in Gao as car bomb targets camp

Al-Qaeda-linked rebels claimed a car bomb attack near a camp housing French troops on Thursday as Malian and foreign forces battled to secure Mali's volatile north against Islamist fighters. At least two civilians were wounded after a vehicle exploded near a camp occupied by French and Chadian troops in the city of Kidal, local officials said, in what appeared to be the conflict's first car bombing.

INTERVIEW-Mali war aims to crush rebels -African commander

* Nigerian general says Islamist insurgents "depleted" * But enemy "terrorists" can strike back from any side * International support good, but more welcome -general * Appeal to local Malians to help defeat insurgents By Pascal Fletcher BAMAKO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - French and African forces aim to hunt down and eradicate Islamist rebels in northern Mali, not contain them, the African contingent commander said on Thursday.

Mali troops battle Islamists in Gao, courthouse ablaze

Malian troops were battling armed Islamists in the northern city of Gao on Thursday in clashes that left the main courthouse in flames, an AFP correspondent and a military source said. Fighting had first erupted overnight in Gao, where a military official and witnesses reported heavy gunfire around two main entrances to the main city in the north of the country. "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, told AFP in Bamako.

EU to train over 2,500 Malian soldiers from April: general

EU military instructors will train more than 2,500 Malian soldiers starting April 2, a bid to get the crisis-torn country's army ready to maintain security as French troops leave, the head of the mission said Wednesday. The European Union Training Mission (EUTM) for Mali is tasked with helping an army in need of a "major overhaul", said General Francois Lecointre, as French-led forces continued working to secure the north of the country from Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.
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