French-led Forces in Mali Capture Timbuktu Airport
07:20 28/01/2013 MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - French-led forces in Mali have captured the airport in the key northern city of Timbuktu as they keep liberating northern territories of the country from al-Qaeda-linked militants, Al Jazeera reported on Monday.
The agency reported that the capture of the airport on Sunday evening was “a major strategic gain” for the French-Mali coalition forces.
“The next stage is to go into the city of Timbuktu, maybe in the early hours tomorrow,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent reported from the airport.
Earlier on Sunday, the French-led forces also seized the Islamic rebels’ stronghold of Gao, northern Mali’s most populous city.
Mali, a French colony until 1960, is in turmoil since last March’s military coup, which triggered an uprising of separatist Tuareg tribes that seized control of the country’s south.
The Tuaregs were soon suppressed by the better armed al-Qaeda affiliates, who overtook control of the northern region, imposing Sharia law and destroying historical heritage sites in Timbuktu, and later started a southward advance.
France deployed a military force earlier this month to aid Mali’s government, whose army had been retreating before the attack of armed groups with ties to al-Qaeda.
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