French troops are expected to try to take control of the ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu after pushing al-Qaeda’s allies from their other major urban strongholds across northern Mali.
Konna, Mali: Armed convoys of Malian and French soldiers converged on the outskirts of the ancient trading centre after reports that the city’s Islamist occupiers had fled.
Diplomatic sources said immediate attempts to secure Timbuktu were “on hold” as specialist French forces assessed risks that militant commanders had ordered the city’s mud-walled buildings and narrow streets booby-trapped as they left.
Mali’s army and its French allies were not expected to face significant resistance in the city however, following accounts that Ansar Dine, the al-Qaeda-linked militants that held it since April last year, had fled early on Saturday.
Timbuktu was one of three major cities in northern Mali, along with Gao and Kidal, that the group controlled until the French operation to push them back began earlier this month.
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