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French and Malian forces are now gathering in Niono, south of Diabaly in Mali, where according to reports from fleeing civilians a number of Islamic militants are hiding.

After taking heavy punishment from the air it appears they are now waiting for government and French forces to enter the town so they can spring a trap.

The Islamists advance has been halted, but retaking the vast north of the country will not be easy. Holding recaptured territory will also be difficult until larger numbers of West African troops arrive.

For the moment it is a case of wait and see, with the French appearing especially cautious. They know hearts and minds will be vital in this war, and civilian casualties must be avoided.

“If they ever go on the offensive we are here to stop them. That won’t be a problem. Our French friends are here, and we are working perfectly together, co-ordinating well, so there are no problems,” said the Malien commander, Colonel Sidy Bé.

Everyone seems happy the French are here, but no-one is feeling out of danger yet.

“We have to remain vigilant to counter any attack that might come from anywhere in Mali,” said a Malien Captain.

This is likely to be a confused, fluid war and its beginnings indicate information may change very quickly.

“The goal of this operation is to link up the Malien forces based here in Niono, with the French base in Markala. the first step maybe towards establishing a future common strategy,” says euronews’ reporter François Chignac.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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