Chadian soldiers in Mali have killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the al Qaeda mastermind of a bloody hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant in January, Chad's military said today.
France confirmed "with certainty" that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of al Qaeda's most feared commanders in Africa, had been killed in Mali last month in a French-led offensive.
French and Malian troops retook control of Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, today after Islamist rebel occupiers fled the ancient Sahara trading town and torched several buildings, including a library holding priceless manuscripts.
French troops have taken control of the airport in the northern Malian town of Kidal, the last rebel stronghold in the north, the French army and a local official told reporters today.
France plans to begin pulling troops out of Mali from March and will focus its operations on flushing out Islamist rebels in the north of the country, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today.
France called on other world powers to commit money and logistical support for African armies readying their troops to join French soldiers already battling al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali.
French and Malian armoured columns rolled into the towns of Diabaly and Douentza in central Mali today after the al Qaeda-linked rebels who had seized them fled into the bush to avoid air strikes.
The United States has started transporting French soldiers and equipment to Mali as part of its logistical aid to French forces fighting Islamist militants in the north of the country, a US official said.
France hit Islamist rebels in Mali with fresh air strikes and deployed armored cars, stepping up its intervention in the West African state as regional allies struggled to accelerate their plans to send in troops.
French ground troops deployed around the central Malian town of Niono today in a bid to halt any further advance by Islamist rebels who have seized the nearby village of Diabaly, Malian military sources said.
Islamist rebels in Mali abandoned the central town of Diabaly today after fleeing a French air strike, military sources said, while West African troops arrived in Bamako to take on the insurgents in Mali's north.
French aircraft pounded Islamist rebels in Mali for a second day today and neighbouring West African states sped up their plans to deploy troops in an international campaign to prevent groups linked to al Qaeda expanding their power base.
Algeria has allowed France full use of its air space in its military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali and is ready to seal its border if the conflict moves north, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels in Mali launched a counter-offensive after three days of strikes by French fighter jets on their strongholds in the desert north, vowing to drag France into a long and brutal ground war.
Mali's two-week-old military government has agreed to hand over power to the West African nation's parliament speaker as part of a transition to civilian rule, a joint statement by the junta and regional mediators declared on Friday.
Mali's coup leader said on Saturday the junta would hand power to civilians within days in a deal under which neighbouring nations agreed to lift sanctions and help tackle Tuareg rebels who have seized much of the north.
Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure resigned on Sunday, paving the way for the soldiers who ousted him in a coup to stick by a deal to restore civilian rule and hand power to the president of the National Assembly.
Life in Mali's capital slowly returned to normal on Sunday after most mutinous soldiers returned to their barracks, but rebels exploiting a military coup in the country pushed towards three northern towns.
Mali's junta yielded to the threat of sanctions on Sunday, pledging to start handing power back to civilians before a midnight deadline, while in the north, separatist rebels seized the ancient trading post of Timbuktu.
Mali's neighbours agreed to shut their borders with the West African country as part of tough sanctions aimed at forcing the leaders of last month's coup to step down.
Renegade Malian soldiers declared on state television today they had seized power in the West African state in protest at the government's failure to quell a nomad-led rebellion in the north.
Soldiers looted petrol stations and hijacked cars in Mali's capital Bamako, 48 hours after a military coup, as the African Union said it had assurances that President Amadou Toumani Toure was safe.
The leader of a military coup in Mali, Amadou Sanogo, appeared on television to say he was alive and well, denying rumours that he had been killed in a counter-coup days after seizing power.