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French soldiers have reportedly taken control of the airport in Kidal. Along with Gao and Timbuktu, it is the third large town in the north of Mali to be retaken from the control of armed Islamist groups in the last 48 hours.

The French military, with the help of the Malian Army, have reestablished control in all three places without meeting much resistance.

But there is disorder on the streets. In Timbuktu, there have been reports of looting of shops owned by those suspected of having helped the Islamist groups who have occupied the town since last year.

International human rights groups also say some Malian troops have carried out revenge killings of suspected rebels and sympathisers in retaken areas.

France wants international observers deployed to ensure human rights are respected.

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