Malian army has not regained control of key town

15th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

The Malian army has not regained control of the central Malian town of Konna, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.

"At this moment, Konna has not yet been retaken by Malian forces," he told a press conference, contradicting claims made by the Malians on Saturday that they had taken "total control" of the town.

Konna's capture by Islamist forces last week triggered French military intervention in its former colony and the first airstrikes of a campaign that started on Friday targeted the town.

The Malian army announced Saturday evening that they had taken the town and that up to 100 Islamist fighters had been killed in the battle over it.

Le Drian confirmed that the Islamist fighters were putting up tough resistance, further undermining the positive gloss that has been put on the results of the intervention so far.

"We are up against a determined adversary that is well equipped and has not given up, but we have hit them hard with our strikes, including those deep in their territory," Le Drian added.

The minister said the intervention had stopped the Islamists' advance around the central garrison town of Mopti but admitted the situation was different around Diabaly, a town inside government-controlled territory that fell to the Islamists on Monday.

"In the western zone (around Diabaly), the jihadi terrorist groups are still very present," he added, indicating that the Malian forces there were struggling to cope.

"Malian forces have been sorely tried in recent combat. Our presence has strengthened them."

© 2013 AFP

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