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Reuters World News Highlights 2200 GMT, Feb 1

ANKARA - A far-leftist suicide bomber killed a Turkish security guard at the U.S. embassy in Ankara on Friday, officials said, blowing open an entrance and sending debris flying through the air. - - - - BAMAKO/TIMBUKTU, Mali - Human rights groups said on Friday a French-led offensive against Islamists in Mali had led to civilian deaths in airstrikes and ethnic reprisals by Malian troops, a day before President Francois Hollande was due to visit the country. - - - -

Paris offers to help restore precious Timbuktu documents

France's national library said Friday it was prepared to lead an international effort to save centuries-old manuscripts feared destroyed or damaged by Islamists as they were chased out of the northern Malian city of Timbuktu. The Bibliotheque Nationale "stands ready to come to the aid of the Ahmed Baba Institute, seriously affected by recent events, in agreement with Malian and French authorities, when the situation allows", the library said in a statement.

French president to visit Mali Saturday

President Francois Hollande will visit Mali on Saturday to express his support for French troops fighting in the former colony and to push for their speedy replacement by African forces. "I am going to Mali to express to our soldiers all our support, encouragement and pride," Hollande said Friday after the announcement of his visit. "I'm also going to ensure that African forces come and join us as quickly as possible and to tell them we need them for this international force."

UPDATE 2-Bulk of Timbuktu manuscripts survived occupation unharmed

* Experts deny media reports of widespread destruction * Malian scholar says 95 percent of texts "safe and sound" * Librarians, citizens hid manuscripts away for safety (Recasts, adds details, quotes, comment from Tombouctou Manuscripts Project Website) By Pascal Fletcher

Bulk of Timbuktu manuscripts safe, unharmed -experts

DAKAR, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The vast majority of Timbuktu's ancient manuscripts in state and private collections appear to be unharmed after the city's 10-month occupation by Islamist rebel fighters, who did burn some of the scripts, experts said on Wednesday. "I can say that the vast majority of the collections appear from our reports not to have been destroyed, damaged or harmed in any way," Cape Town University's Professor Shamil Jeppie, an expert on the Saharan city's manuscripts, told Reuters.

Islamist rebels torch Timbuktu manscript library-mayor

DAKAR, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Islamist fighters fleeing Mali's ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu as French and Malian troops closed in set fire to a South African-funded library there containing thousands of priceless manuscripts, the city's mayor said on Monday.

FACTBOX-Timbuktu, ancient trading town caught up in Mali's war

Jan 28 (Reuters) - The Malian town of Timbuktu, recaptured from Islamist rebels by French and Malian troops, is an ancient centre of Islamic culture that grew rich in the 14th and 15th centuries as a trading post for gold and salt crossing the Sahara. Here are some facts about the town: * Timbuktu has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. Founded in 1100 by Tuareg nomads, it was once the richest town in the ancient empire of Mali, whose wealth came from the trans-Saharan caravan trade.

French, Malians reach Timbuktu in rebel-held north-source

BAMAKO/SEVARE, Mali, Jan 27 (Reuters) - French and Malian troops advancing against Islamist rebels in northern Mali have reached Timbuktu, the fabled Saharan trading town occupied last year by al Qaeda-allied fighters, a Malian military source said on Sunday. "They've gone past Niafounke and since yesterday evening are at the gates of Timbuktu," the source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters in Bamako. The French and Malians had not so far encountered any resistance from the rebels at Timbuktu.

Mali's displaced hopeful of return home as rebels melt away

By Richard Valdmanis SEVARE, Mali, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Refugees crowded excitedly around crackling radios at a camp in the central Mali town of Sevare on Saturday evening as French and Malian forces seized the Islamist rebel bastion of Gao. "I want very badly to go back home," said 19-year-old Amadou Maiga, who left Gao three months ago after rebels controlling it burned his school - declaring it a violation of Islam - and recruited his classmates as cooks and child soldiers.
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