Security sources say a column of French and
Malian armoured personnel carriers and supply trucks moved north into the central Malian town of Diabaly early on Monday after the Islamist rebels who were controlling it melted away.
Locals say the insurgents fled after French air strikes destroyed many of their vehicles.
The town had previously held the Islamist’s major concentration of forces in southern Mali, south of the frontline towns of Mopti and Sevare.
“It’s easy to see why it’s hard to secure this town. Dense vegetation provides cover for Islamists to hide out, and the town is quite large. Mine disposal units are already at work, clearing boobytrapped houses. Even though the French and Malian troups have arrived, we can’t say that the city is totally safe yet”, says euronews’ François Chignac, embedded with French forces.
The retaking of Diabaly marks the first major success for the combined French and Malian military, but they will need more help to advance further north from West African troops yet to arrive. The reuniting of Mali still seems a long way off.