Mali army claims ‘total control’ of Konna

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iol news pic mali french soldiers jan 18 REUTERS Villagers wave to French military as they pass the the town of Konobougou, Mali.

Mali - The Malian army has retaken the central of Konna which fell to Islamist rebels advancing from the north and sparked French military intervention, the military and a regional security source said Friday.

“We have wrested total control of Konna after inflicting heavy losses on the enemy,” an army statement said.

A regional security source and local residents confirmed the claim.

Islamic rebel groups who have controlled northern Mali since April pushed south into government-held territory and seized Konna, about 700km by road from the capital Bamako, on January 10.

That prompted former colonial ruler France to intervene to stop the rebel advance. Initially the French role was limited to air power, but it has since launched ground offensives.

While the Malian army earlier reported it had regained control of Konna, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the zone was still in the Islamists' hands.

The area is not accessible to independent observers.

The UN special envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, said the French air and ground intervention in Mali was the only way to stop Islamists creating “a terrorist safe haven in the heart of Africa”.

On Thursday, more French troops poured into Mali, boosting their number to 1,400. At full strength the force will reach 2,500

soldiers. - Sapa-AFP

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