Malian and French troops have surrounded the historic city of Timbuktu in northern Mali, and have taken control of the local airport. The combined force, led by the French military, encountered no resistance from Islamist rebels who had been in control of the town. They now control the who area surrounding the town, as well as the area between Gao and Timbuktu, and area now cautiously preparing to enter the city.
On Saturday the combined force, which now also includes regional troops from other African nations, took control of Gao, the most populous city in northern Mali.
“We control the airport at Timbuktu,” a senior Malian army officer told AFP. “We did not encounter any resistance.”
If Timbuktu is captured, as is expected, then only one major city will remain in the hands of Islamist rebels – Kidal, located close to the Algerian border.
So far the Islamist rebels had put up little resistance as the French-led force has pushed northwards. Instead they have preferred to escape into more rural areas ahead of the advance. It is not currently known whether they giving up the territory, or if they are preparing for a guerrilla campaign once the advancing French forces hand over security to the the government in Bamako.