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Malian army enters Douentza as anti-rebel operations move north

The Malian army entered Douentza on Monday morning after regaining control of two other towns in anti- rebel operations with the support of French troops, the military told Xinhua.

Douentza is in the central region of Mopti, 165 km away from Sevare, the site for the operational command of Malian and French forces.

The allies "are advancing" to the north of the country, according to the West African country's security sources. The Malian and French troops have also recaptured the central town of Konna and the northwestern town of Diabaly, which is about 400 km from the capital Bamako and near the border with Mauritania.

The northern rebels linked to Al-Qaida took Konna after days of fighting with the Malian army early in the month, threatening the government-held south.

France intervene on Jan. 11, sending warplanes to bomb advancing rebels, who fled out of the towns amid airstrikes.

The West African bloc ECOWAS has offered to send 3,300 soldiers from member states to Mali to help restore its territorial integrity, while France has increased its troops to 2,000 in its former colony.

The rebels occupied northern Mali soon after a military coup on March 22, 2012.

[Source: Xinhua, Bamako, 21Jan13]

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