Islamist forces attack Malian troops in key northern city of Gao
GAO, Mali — Black-robed Islamic extremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles invaded Gao in wooden boats on Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops ousted the jihadists.
Gunfire echoed for hours across the city of mud-walled buildings. The combat started at about 2 p.m. in downtown Gao, and the fighting continued as night fell. Later, the sound of gunfire was replaced by the clattering of French military helicopters overhead.
The attack in Gao shows that the Islamic fighters, many of them well-armed and with combat experience, are determined and daring, and it foreshadows a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa.
The radicals fought against the Malian army throughout the afternoon and were seen roaming the narrow streets blanketed in sand and on rooftops in the center of Gao.
There were no signs of civilian casualties.
The fighting appeared to center near police headquarters, where Malian soldiers with rocket propelled grenades traded fire with the combatants believed to be from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO.
Ever since French forces took Gao on Jan. 26, the Islamic rebels had clashed with security forces on the city's outskirts. This was the first time they succeeded in entering the strategic city.
The Islamic radicals had already tried to spread violence into Gao. On Saturday night, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a checkpoint at the entrance to the city, killing himself and wounding one Malian soldier. A suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up at the same security spot on Friday.
French and Malian forces have retaken the fabled city of Timbuktu and other northern towns, pushing the extremists back into the desert. But the Islamic fighters made strategic retreats and are dug into desert hideouts, from where they are expected to continue challenging the control of the cities.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Coast Guard fires in defense on Iran boat
- Colombia drug lord’s most loyal assassin courts Hollywood upon early release from prison
- ‘Holocaust T-shirt’ for kids discontinued in Spain
- Police, government blamed in U.K. child sex exploitation
- Iceland volcano shaken below, but doesn’t stir above
- Obama ‘dithers’ on Syria, Defense officials say
- Ebola viral disease prompts U.S. travel warning to West Africa
- Chinese cultists on trial in eatery murder
- Chinese jet buzzes Navy aircraft, Pentagon says