French, Mali forces head toward Timbuktu

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Associated Press

Posted on January 27, 2013 at 12:33 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 27 at 12:33 PM

SEVARE, Mali (AP) — French and Malian forces are pushing toward Timbuktu, as the two-week-long French military action gathers momentum against the Islamist extremists who have ruled northern Mali for more than nine months.

So far the French forces have met little resistance, though it remains unclear what battles may await. Mali's military is blocking dozens of international journalists from trying to travel toward the fabled desert town/

Timbuktu's mayor is in the capital, Bamako, and he tells The Associated Press he's had no information about the remote town, where phone lines have been cut for days.

The move on Timbuktu comes a day after the French announced they had seized the airport and a key bridge in Gao, one of the other northern provincial capitals under the grip of radical Islamists. French and African land forces also are making their way to Gao from neighboring Niger.

Mali's military says French and Malian soldiers are patrolling Gao, searching for remnants of the Islamists.

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APPHOTO XJD102: Malian soldiers man a checkpoint on the Gao road outside Sevare, some 620 kilometers (385 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. French and Malian troops held a strategic bridge and the airport in the northern town of Gao on Sunday as their force also pressed toward Timbuktu, another stronghold of Islamic extremists in northern Mali, officials said. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (27 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD102 (01/27/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD101: A Malian family's taxi is searched at a checkpoint on the Gao road outside Sevare, some 620 kilometers (385 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. French and Malian troops held a strategic bridge and the airport in the northern town of Gao on Sunday as their force also pressed toward Timbuktu, another stronghold of Islamic extremists in northern Mali, officials said. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (27 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD101 (01/27/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD114: In this Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 photo, a man pulls a cart past a well where several bodies were dumped in Sevare, some 620 kilometers north of Mali's capital, Bamako. A witness told The Associated Press that he saw soldiers fatally shoot at least three people at a nearby bus stop and dump their bodies in the well. Mali's government is warning soldiers to respect human rights following reports of the civilians being killed. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (25 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD114 (01/25/13)>>

APPHOTO XJD116: ED'S NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - Several bodies lie at the bottom of a well, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Sevare, some 620 kilometers north of Mali's capital, Bamako. A witness told The Associated Press that he saw soldiers fatally shoot at least three people at a nearby bus stop and dump their bodies in the well. Mali's government is warning soldiers to respect human rights following reports of the civilians being killed. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (26 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO XJD116 (01/26/13)>>

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