Mali Islamists gain ground despite French fighting

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Associated Press

Posted on January 14, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 14 at 4:34 PM

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Islamist insurgents are taking more territory in the Mali, despite intensive bombardments by French warplanes.

According to French and Malian military officials, the areas captured by the insurgents today include a strategic military camp. And the gains bring them much closer to the country's capital.

The extremists linked to al-Qaida overran a garrison town after cutting off a key road. According to a French citizen in the area, the French Embassy immediately ordered the evacuation of the roughly 60 French nationals in the region.

Mali's military is in disarray, and it has let many towns fall with barely a shot fired since the insurgency began last year in the West African nation. Mali's north, an area the size of France, was occupied by rebels last April following a coup in the capital.

France's military started battling the extremists in northern Mali on Friday. It has now expanded its bombing campaign, launching airstrikes for the first time in central Mali to deal with the new threat.

The commander of one of the al-Qaida offshoots in northern Mali is daring the French to continue the attacks. The commander says France has "fallen into a trap much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia."

%@AP Links

201-c-20-(Rukmini Callimachi (RUK'-mih-nee kah-lee-MAH'-kee), AP correspondent)-"in central Mali"-AP correspondent Rukmini Callimachi reports the tide has turned in favor of the Islamist insurgents. (14 Jan 2013)

<<CUT *201 (01/14/13)>> 00:20 "in central Mali"

202-c-13-(Rukmini Callimachi (RUK'-mih-nee kah-lee-MAH'-kee), AP correspondent)-"area of Segou"-AP correspondent Rukmini Callimachi reports France is telling its citizens to leave the key Malian town of Segou as more foreign fighters are deployed. (14 Jan 2013)

<<CUT *202 (01/14/13)>> 00:13 "area of Segou"

GRAPHICSBANK: French Mirage 2000 D aircraft flying, on texture, partial graphic (14 Jan 2013)

APPHOTO PAR101: French President Francois Hollande chairs a meeting focusing on the situation in Mali next to his military chief of staff Benoit Pugat, right, and General Secretary of the Elysee presidential palace, Pierre-Rene Lemas, left partially hidden, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, at the Elysee palace in Paris. French military forces on Monday widened their bombing campaign against Islamic extremists occupying northern Mali, launching airstrikes for the first time in central Mali to combat a new threat as the four-day-old offensive continued to grow. (AP Photo/Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool) (14 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO PAR101 (01/14/13)>>

APPHOTO MLI111: French citizen Nicole Obre Toure carries a bag to her car as she prepares to leave the region where she has lived for 12 years, in Segou, central Mali, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. As Islamist militants gained ground Monday morning, Toure decided to move from the village where she lives into Segou, the regional capital. Once there, however, she learned that the French government had ordered the immediate evacuation of French citizens from the area. Despite intensive aerial bombardments by French warplanes, Islamist insurgents grabbed more territory in Mali Monday and moved closer to the capital, French and Malian authorities said. (AP Photo/Harouna Traore) (14 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO MLI111 (01/14/13)>>

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