BAMAKO: Malian troops backed by French forces yesterday clashed with Islamist fighters who had infiltrated the northern city of Timbuktu, leaving three jihadists and one Malian soldier dead, an army officer said.
“Jihadists have infiltrated the centre of Timbuktu... Our men are currently fighting them with the support of a unit of our French partners,” the Malian officer said.
According to provisional information, three Malian soldiers were also wounded in the fighting that was still continuing into the late afternoon.
The Islamist fighters who had controlled the fabled Saharan city before French and Malian soldiers recaptured it in January have been able to blend into the population to launch attacks, infiltrating it by foot or bicycle.
Ex-British minister files complaint
LONDON: Former British cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell has made a formal complaint to a police watchdog over the apparent leaking of the findings of a police probe into allegations he called officers “plebs”, it emerged yesterday.
Mitchell was forced to resign in October as chief whip after police claimed he verbally abused an officer who stopped him cycling out of the main gates of Prime Minister David Cameron’s offices in Downing Street.
Mitchell, a former international development and aid minister, has always denied he used the word and insists the police have mounted a campaign to destroy his career.
North Korea vows to strengthen nukes
SEOUL: North Korea vowed yesterday to strengthen its nuclear weapons, a day after announcing it is in a “state of war” with South Korea, and said it would never trade its atomic deterrent for aid.
Tensions have risen sharply since the United Nations tightened sanctions in response to the North’s nuclear and missile tests, and since the United States and South Korea launched military drills south of the border.
On Saturday the North declared it was in a “state of war” with the South and warned Seoul and Washington that any provocation would swiftly escalate into an all-out nuclear conflict.
Mandela spends fourth day in hospital
JOHANNESBURG: Nelson Mandela remained in hospital for a fourth day yesterday after South African officials said he was making steady progress following treatment for a recurrence of pneumonia.
The frail 94-year-old, one of the towering figures of modern history, was admitted late on Wednesday for his third hospitalisation in four months.
Doctors drained a build-up of fluid, known as a pleural effusion or “water on the lungs”, that had developed from the lung infection.
“This has resulted in him now being able to breathe without difficulty,” President Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement on Saturday.
Yesterday morning, Zuma’s spokesman said he didnt have another update on the anti-apartheid icon’s health, as he awaited a report from the doctors. “I have said he is responding (to treatment), making steady progress,” said Mac Maharaj.