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French-led troops in Mali have secured the airport in the northern town of Gao.

The French Defence Ministry confirmed that an important bridge has also been taken by the French although fighting continues in the town.

Gao had been a stronghold of Islamist fighters after it was seized last April.

The Mayor of Gao, Sadou Diallo, who had been forced to flee has now returned. He praised the work of French troops: “I feel as if I’ve just fallen from the sky back home, thanks to God and thanks to France.” He added “I want to thank the French president who answered the call of my president.”

There has also been fighting in the central town of Konna. The Mayor of Konna confirmed that at least 11 civilians had been killed during French airstrikes to drive out militants.

Meanwhile around 100 Chadian vehicles carrying troops are heading towards the border with Mali. They will join French and African forces already fighting al Qaeda-allied fighters in the country’s north.

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