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Mali crisis disrupts education of 700,000 children: UN

The conflict in northern Mali has disrupted the education of nearly three quarters of a million children, the United Nations Children's Fund told AFP on Sunday. "The crisis in Mali has disrupted the education of some 700,000 Malian children, leaving 200,000 still with no access to school both in the north and south of the country, according to UNICEF and educational authorities in Mali," UNICEF said in a statement.

France's Hollande says focus now on 'securing' Mali

President Francois Hollande said Monday that France was in the phase of securing areas from where Islamists had been routed in Mali as his Nigerian counterpart warned this could not occur overnight. Speaking exactly a month after France launched a military offensive in its former west African colony to flush out extremists holding the vast arid north, Hollande said the drive had been a huge success.

UNESCO says millions needed to restore Mali heritage

PARIS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - African officials and academics will meet in Paris this month to discuss how to repair and safeguard mausoleums and ancient manuscripts in Mali that were destroyed by Islamist rebels, U.N. cultural agency UNESCO said. UNESCO believes most of some 300,000 centuries-old texts, ranging from scholarly treatises to old commercial invoices, are safe, although around 2,000 manuscripts may have been lost at the ransacked Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu.

'We can't live without Arabs, Tuaregs': Timbuktu mayor

Timbuktu has long been a crossroads of north and sub-Saharan Africa, but its mayor fears its cosmopolitan identity is at risk as light-skinned residents flee reprisals after a 10-month occupation by Islamists. The fabled caravan city rose to fame in the 14th century as a trading hub where Arabs and Tuaregs exchanged northern salt for southern gold transported by black Africans to the edge of the Sahara.

France working to 'quickly' withdraw Timbuktu forces: FM

France is working to "very quickly" withdraw its forces from Timbuktu, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday, without making clear if the troops would be sent further into the north of Mali. "We want to be rapidly relieved by the AFISMA African forces in the cities that we hold," Fabius told France Inter radio. In Timbuktu a withdrawal "could take place very quickly, we are working on it," he said.

Number three Islamist leader of Timbuktu said arrested near Algeria border sd/jhb/gd

Hollande gets hero's welcome in a Mali fearful of future

President Francois Hollande received a rapturous welcome in Mali on Saturday as he promised that France would stay as long as necessary to continue the fight against Islamist rebels in the country's north. As troops worked to secure Kidal, the last bastion of radicals who occupied the vast desert north for 10 months before the French army's surprise intervention, Hollande told Malians it was time for Africans to take the lead but that France would not abandon them.

Hollande visits Mali to push for African takeover

President Francois Hollande received a rapturous welcome Saturday as he visited Mali to push for African troops to take over a French-led offensive that drove back Islamist rebels from the country's desert north. The French leader's whirlwind tour came as troops worked to secure Kidal, the last bastion of radicals who seized control last year after a coup, raising fears that an area larger than France could become a safe haven for Al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

France's Hollande arrives in Timbuktu ha-thm/jhb/yad

URGENT ¥¥¥ France's Hollande arrives in Timbuktu

President Francois Hollande arrived Saturday in the fabled desert city of Timbuktu in northern Mali, where a French-led military campaign has driven back Islamist radicals occupying the region. Hollande, who is pushing for African troops to take over the military operation, is due to visit troops and tour the 700-year-old mud mosque of Djingareyber and the Ahmed Baba library, where Islamists burned priceless ancient manuscripts before fleeing the French-led advance. ha-thm/jhb/yad
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