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France bombs rebel leader's home in Mali

Jan. 27, 2013 at 8:56 AM   |   Comments

KIDAL, Mali, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- France used fighter bombers to destroy the home of a leader of an al-Qaida-linked militant group in Mali and pressed on toward Timbuktu Sunday, officials said.

The bombs were dropped Saturday in Kidal, the first town to be captured by Islamic rebels when they seized control of a large part of Mali last year, euronews.com reported Sunday.

It is not known whether Iyad Ag Ghaly, the former Tuareg rebel who set up Ansar Dine in 2012, survived the attack on his home.

French forces were advancing on they key northern city of Timbuktu and should arrive near there "soon," French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Sunday.

Islamist groups seized much of the north of the country last year but have been losing ground since France's involvement began earlier this month. Many of the rebels have fled to desert hide-outs and may be difficult to find and capture once major towns are secured, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, African Union chairman Boni Yayi hailed France's military intervention Sunday, the BBC reported.

It was something "we should have done a long time ago to defend a member country," he said.

African states have pledged to send approximately 5,700 troops to help support the 3,700 French troops and Malian forces in the campaign, the BBC reported. AU leaders have discussed sending more troops, though so far, only a small part of the African force has deployed.

Earlier Saturday, French and Malian troops captured the militant stronghold of Gao.

"This terrorist group intends to spread its criminal purpose over the whole of Mali, and eventually target other countries," Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly said.

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