Skip to main content

Mali plans July elections as it makes gains in battle against militants

From Antonia Mortensen and Dheepthi Namasivayam, CNN
January 31, 2013 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A battle is under way for the last major town in the sweep to flush out Islamist militants
  • Control of the airport comes after troops seized cities of Timbuktu and Gao
  • The French-led offensive started on January 10

(CNN) -- The Malian president announced plans to hold elections by July as French-led troops battled Islamists in the last major northern town under militant control.

A battle is under way to secure Kidal, the last major town in the sweep to flush out militants in the north.

The French military said it seized the airport in Kidal on Tuesday night, thus gaining control of a major point of access.

French forces are focusing on recapturing airports while Malian forces take over the cities, French army spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said.

Malian soldiers transport in a pickup truck a dozen suspected Islamist rebels on Friday, February 8, after arresting them north of Gao. A suicide bomber blew himself up on February 8 near a group of Malian soldiers in the northern city, where Islamist rebels driven from the town have resorted to guerilla attacks. Malian soldiers transport in a pickup truck a dozen suspected Islamist rebels on Friday, February 8, after arresting them north of Gao. A suicide bomber blew himself up on February 8 near a group of Malian soldiers in the northern city, where Islamist rebels driven from the town have resorted to guerilla attacks.
Photos: Mali military battles Islamist insurgents
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Fighting Islamists in Mali Photos: Fighting Islamists in Mali
Suspected Islamists attacked in Gao
France to hand Mali war to Africans
Preserving Timbuktu's treasures
What led to Mali's disintegration?

Mali's former colonial power, France, is leading the offensive in the north.

As troops made gains in the region, the French Defense Ministry hailed President Dioncounda Traore's transition plan as a crucial step forward.

Six reasons events in Mali matter

"France welcomes the unanimous adoption by Mali's parliament of the road map for the transition, which makes provision for the holding of elections and the opening of negotiations with the north," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It urged Malian authorities to involve legitimate representatives of the north in dialogue to ensure its faster return to normalcy after a tight Islamist grip.

France sent troops at Mali's request after Islamists seized the strategic town of Konna on January 10.

The town is now back in Malian control. Its capture raised fears that militants would turn the vast region into a haven for terrorists.

French-led troops now control the cities of Timbuktu and Gao, along with the swath in between that was an Islamist stronghold for almost a year, the French Defense Ministry said this week.

"The French troops are being vivacious at Kidal airport, which was taken a little more than a day ago," said Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defense minister. "The weather conditions are such that the complement of the forces will take a bit more time to arrive, but that's part of the risks of the desert."

What's behind the instability in Mali?

Islamic extremists carved out a large portion of northern Mali last year, taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup.

They banned music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television, and destroyed historic tombs and shrines in the region.

But with the French-led offensive sending the militants on the run, residents are once again roaming the streets without fear.

France has 2,150 soldiers in Mali and 1,000 more troops supporting the operation from elsewhere. West African forces are expected to battle the militants alongside French troops.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Conflict in Mali
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 1802 GMT (0202 HKT)
Restoring territorial integrity of Mali is more than bombing Islamist hideouts.
January 16, 2013 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
The world is responding to an uprising of Islamist militants, hoping to inject stability in a country once hailed as a model for democracy in Africa.
January 24, 2013 -- Updated 2251 GMT (0651 HKT)
Nima Elbagir talks with victims of war and displaced people from Gao now living in Mali's capital.
January 17, 2013 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
After intense airstrikes against rebel strongholds, French ground forces are moving north to try to dislodge the fighters.
March 13, 2013 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Residents of Gao, Mali, celebrate their town's liberation from rebel rule.
January 28, 2013 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Sankore mosque, built in 15th-16th centuries , Timbuktu city, Timbuktu region, Mali.
The offensive against Islamist militants gained further ground as French and Malian forces reportedly took control of the airport in ancient Timbuktu.
January 15, 2013 -- Updated 1827 GMT (0227 HKT)
France intervenes according to doctrine and the pragmatic parameters of circumstance, says the president of the Institut des Ameriques.
January 14, 2013 -- Updated 2307 GMT (0707 HKT)
CNN's Nima Elbagir reports on the conflict in Mali, how the country got to this point and what the international reaction means.
July 27, 2012 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
Islamic radicals linked to al Qaeda have seized northern Mali, and there are widespread concerns that the region could soon become a terrorist haven.
January 26, 2013 -- Updated 0325 GMT (1125 HKT)
Erin Burnett discusses al Qaeda involvement in the Algeria attack and how the U.S. will deal them in northern Africa.
January 28, 2013 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
The United States is intensifying its involvement in Mali, where local and French forces are battling Islamic militants.
January 15, 2013 -- Updated 0033 GMT (0833 HKT)
CNN's Erin Burnett reports on the situation in northern Mali and its consequences for U.S. homeland security. Watch to find out more.
January 12, 2013 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
French troops face fierce combat against Islamist militants in Mali and in Somalia during a failed rescue attempt.
February 9, 2013 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
As Mali military braces against Islamist insurgents and French military strikes targeted Islamist rebels, both sides are determined to win.
July 4, 2012 -- Updated 1013 GMT (1813 HKT)
Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu on July 1, 2012.
The Old Mostar Bridge, the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and now the Timbuktu. Once again, culture is under attack, UNESCO's Irina Bokova writes.
November 11, 2012 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
African leaders hold an emergency summit to discuss plans to rid Mali of Islamic extremists accused of atrocities.
ADVERTISEMENT