After an entry under cover of darkness early Monday morning, French and Malian forces now say the town of Diabaly is secure and they are consolidating their positions. Mines left behind by the Islamist insurgents have been defused, and commanders appear satisfied that all the militants have fled, and none are hiding among the civilian population.
Some may have fled to the Ouagadou forest near the Mauritanian border, where they are believed to have several bases.
“The rebel vehicles halted in front of our village. I had got my family to leave, but I stayed. Planes bombed the rebel’s camp and their pickups in front of my house. After the first explosion I fainted, and when I came to, they were overhead again , another bomb fell, and since then I have terrible headaches, and I can’t see very well,” said one elderly man.
A resident of Timbuktu, further north, told a press agency by phone that scores of pickups full of rebels had arrived during the day there. Their desert strongholds, scattered around an area the size of Texas, will be harder nuts to crack.
“You can see how violent the fighting was here. Now Diabaly is free, it opens the way to stage two of operation Serval; the retaking of the entire country. There are likely to be more scenes of destruction like this in Mali,” says euronews’ reporter François Chignac.