Calm restored in Timbuktu after rebel attack is repelled | Africa | DW | 01.04.2013
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Calm restored in Timbuktu after rebel attack is repelled

Calm has been restored to the Malian city of Timbuktu after government and French troops repelled an Islamist rebel attack. At least one Malian soldier and three rebels are reported to have been killed in the fighting.

News agencies cited local residents and army officials who said that the fighting had died down by late on Sunday.

"Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses," Reuters quoted Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga as saying.

Army officials said soldiers were going door-to-door through the city to look for any Islamist rebels who may have stayed behind.

"Our team on the ground is sweeping [Timbuktu] and checking whether any jihadists are still active or not."

The rebel assault on the city began on Saturday with a suicide bombing at an army checkpoint that wounded a Malian soldier. The Islamists then reportedly launched their assault on the center of Timbuktu from two directions, targeting an army base and a hotel which had been hosting a large delegation of government officials. A regional governor was among those who were evacuated to a French army base, according to the Associated Press.

It took several hours for Malian forces, supported by around 50 French troops and air power, to regain control of the city.

This was the first major attack on Timbuktu since Malian and French troops liberated it from the rebels back in January. It also comes as France is preparing to scale back its military presence in the country. President Francois Hollande has said that France, which currently has around 4,000 troops in the West African nation, hoped to reduce that figure to 2,000 by July and 1,000 by the end of this year.

France sent in combat troops in January after the rebels, who had taken control of most of the north country in the wake of an ill-fated military coup last year, began to advance towards the capital, Bamako.

pfd/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)