French warplanes bomb Islamist targets in Mali

February 04, 2013 - 4:15:52 am


TIMBUKTU: France said it carried out major air strikes yesterday near Kidal, the last bastion of armed extremists chased from Mali’s desert north in a lightning French-led offensive, after a whirlwind visit by President Francois Hollande.

An army spokesman said 30 warplanes had bombed training and logistics centres run by Islamist extremists overnight in the Tessalit area north of Kidal, where French troops took the airport on Wednesday and have been working to secure the town itself.

Residents said French and Chadian soldiers had patrolled the northeastern town for the first time on Saturday as the rest of the country feted Hollande on his tour, a victory lap that came three weeks into a campaign, so far successful, to oust the Islamists who occupied northern Mali for 10 months.

The French-led forces have met little resistance, with officials saying many Islamists have likely fled to the mountainous terrain around Kidal. The area targeted in yesterday’s air strikes is near the border with Algeria.