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French forces press in on Mali as US extends support

  • French led troops pressed in on Mali after recapturing the Islamist stronghold of Gao, as the US agreed to provide vital refueling facilities for France's air offensive. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that their troops have captured Gao and were advancing on Timbuktu, another key town in the vast northern desert region held for ten months by al Qaeda-linked rebels. Washington's decision to step up its role in the conflict by helping refuel French warplanes provided a vital boost to the campaign. French airstrikes forced the Islamists from their strongholds in the north, clearing way for ground offensive. The seizure of Gao, the most populated town in Mali's northern region, was announced by the French defence ministry and confirmed by Malian security sources.