Chief of Mali army sets sights on retaking towns of Gao, Timbuktu
By Serge Daniel, AFPDIABALY, Mali -- Mali's army chief Tuesday said his French-backed forces could reclaim the northern towns of Gao and fabled Timbuktu from Islamists in a month, as the United States began airlifting French troops to Mali.
January 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Malian forces patrolled Diabaly, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Bamako, to buttress their presence after rolling into the central town on Monday along with French forces and getting a red carpet welcome by locals.
They also recaptured the strategic crossroads town of Douentza, which was seized by the Islamists in September.
The U.S. military said meanwhile it has started airlifting French troops and equipment from France into Mali to assist their operation.
“We expect the mission to last for the next several days,” an AFRICOM spokesman, Chuck Prichard, told AFP in Germany. “As of yet we've had two flights that have landed and we anticipate more in the coming days.”
Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates are also providing transport planes or helicopters required to help move the African and French troops around Mali's vast expanses.