French and Malian troops advanced on the key Islamist stronghold of Gao on Friday after recapturing the northern town of Hombori, as the extremists struck back by bombing a strategic bridge.
The French-led assault against the radical Islamists controlling northern Mali entered its third week with a strong push into the vast semi-arid zone amid rising humanitarian concerns for people in the area facing a dire food crisis,Times of India Reports
“At present, Malian and French soldiers are in Hombori. There are no longer any Islamists on the ground,” said a teacher in the town which lies 920 kilometres (575 miles) north of the capital Bamako and 200 kilometres west of Gao.
A Malian security source said the troops would press on to the eastern city of Gao, one of the three major northern towns along with Kidal and Timbuktu, where the al-Qaida-linked Islamists have imposed brutal sharia for 10 months.