BAMAKO – The French army carried out overnight airstrikes on the western town of Diabaly in Mali’s government-held south which was seized by Islamists on Monday, a security source said.
“The planes struck the zone of Diabaly. At least five Islamists were killed and many injured,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
A resident of a neighbouring town some 20 kilometres (12 miles) away told AFP he had seen armed Islamists fleeing after the strikes.
A regional security source added that Islamic fighters were still within the Diabaly area, and that some of them had taken hostage a local government official and his family at their home.
He said the insurgents would be forced to “let go” and flee the area as they had done in their northern strongholds, as it is near the Mauritanian border where that country is boosting patrols.
The Islamists linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) seized the town of Diabaly on Monday after clashes with the Malian army.
France launched its military offensive in the west African nation on Friday as the Islamists who have occupied northern Mali since April began advancing towards Bamako.
The hold by Al-Qaeda linked armed Islamists on the vast swathes of Mali’s northern desert had sparked fear in the international community that the zone could become a new breeding ground for terrorists and pose a larger threat. (AFP)