French and Malian troops enter city


French and Malian forces were trying to secure control of the ancient city of Timbuktu in northern Mali yesterday as efforts to defeat the Islamist militants gathered speed.

French air strikes appear to have caused the al-Qaeda-linked rebels to retreat from the city into northern Mali. Government troops, with help from French soldiers and aircraft, have rapidly advanced north in recent days, encountering little resistance.

On Saturday they captured Gao, which has been under control of the Islamists since April. Another contingent of soldiers reached the outskirts of Timbuktu the same night. The troops were proceeding with caution yesterday after reports that some of the fighters had tried to blend in with locals . Rebel positions in Kidal were also reportedly bombed by French aircraft this weekend. Briefs