FILE – In this Oct. 18, 2012 file photo, women wearing veils as mandated by Islamist group Ansar Dine, walk along a street in Timbuktu, Mali. The Mali army attacked Islamist rebels with heavy weapons in the center of the country which divides the insurgent-held north and the government-controlled south, government officials said Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/File)
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The Islamists who rule northern Mali clashed with government forces for the first time in nearly a year, seizing a strategic city Thursday as the al-Qaida-linked militants pushed toward the government line of control in the center of the troubled country.
The capture of the city of Konna marks a dangerous escalation in the Islamists’ confrontation with the Malian government, which is based hundreds of miles (kilometers) to the south in the capital, Bamako.
The fighting in central Mali also comes amid speculation that a regional military intervention to oust the extremists may not come until September at the earliest.
Malian President Dioncounda Traore asked France, Mali’s former colonial power, for help to counter the advance of the extremists.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said Traore sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a similar letter to French President Francois Hollande seeking assistance from France. Araud said Hollande will respond to the letter on Friday.
Araud, who spoke to reporters after emergency U.N. Security Council consultations on Mali on Thursday, said urgent action is needed against the groups who captured Konna.
“This terrorist attack weakens even more the stability of Mali and thereby that of its Login to read more