Malian troops have surrounded the strategic central town of Douentza in a push to capture it from militant Islamists, an army spokesman has said.
The troops have surrounded Douentza, about 800km (500 miles) north-east of the capital Bamako, as part of an operation to capture the town from the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao),Col Diaran Kone, the army spokesman, told the BBC
A resident said Douentza was still under Mujao’s control, and no fighting had so far taken place.
Government and Mujao forces have clashed near Konna town, which is on the edge of government-controlled territory and the regional capital, Mopti.
Residents in Konna told the AFP news agency that the two sides had been involved in heavy shooting.
“We are going to oust them,” an unnamed Malian soldier is quoted by AFP as saying.
Malian troops exchanged fire on Wednesday with armed Islamist groups that have been occupying the country’s vast desert north for nine months and appear to be trying to push farther south.
The latest clashes, which a resident said included heavy-weapons fire, came less than 48 hours after the west African nation’s army put down an attempted Islamist attack on the same town, Konna, which is located near the edge of the government-controlled zone and the regional capital of Mopti, the gateway to the south,News 24 reported