GAO, Mali (AP) — Islamist extremists have been flushed from power in a number of major cities in northern Mali, but they are not giving up the fight.
Black-robed militants armed with AK-47 automatic rifles snuck into the city of Gao in canoes this afternoon and launched a surprise attack on Mali's army. Gunfire was continuing as night fell.
The Islamic radicals were seen roaming the streets and on rooftops in the city's center.
The fighting appeared to concentrated near the police headquarters, where Malian soldiers with rocket propelled grenades traded fire with the militants. Soldiers were positioned at every corner in the neighborhood.
The only sound in the city has been gunfire and the bleating of goats as families hide in their homes. However, there have been no signs of civilian casualties.
Many of the militants are well-armed and have combat experience, and the attack is seen as a harbinger of a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa.