Conflict & Justice

Gao airport, bridge captured in Mali by French-led troops


A Malian soldier guards the entrance of the strategic bridge of Merkala upon the Niger river on January 24, 2013 . One of the main Islamist groups occupying northern Mali split Thursday, with the breakaway faction saying it was ready for talks to end a two-week-old French-led offensive, amid growing concerns over rights abuses by government troops.



French-led troops in Mali have taken control of the airport in the northern town of Gao, a Islamist stronghold, the French Defense ministry said.

According to BBC News, along with the airport, troops have secured a the strategic Wabary bridge. Fighting continues in the town, however.

The capture of the airport and bridge means that Malian troops have made "significant inroads" into the region controlled by Al Qaeda linked militants, the Associated Press reported.

The Islamists first seized Gao, as well as two other provincial capitals, last April in the aftermath of a coup in Mali's capital city Bamako.

Yesterday, Islamists destroyed a bridge near the Niger border with explosives as soldiers from Niger and Chad prepared to enter Mali from the East.

Radio France Internationale reported that West African defense ministers meet this weekend in the Ivorian capital, Abijan, to discuss ways to help French and Malian troops with an African force.