French, Malian forces capture Gao rebel stronghold

KONNA, Mali/PARIS - French and Malian forces fighting Islamist rebels took control on Saturday of the rebel bastion of Gao, the biggest military success so far in an offensive against al Qaida-allied insurgents occupying the country's north.
The United States and Europe back the UN-mandated Mali operation as a counterstrike against the threat of Islamist jihadists using the West African state's inhospitable Sahara desert as a launching pad for international attacks.
In an overnight assault on Gao backed by French warplanes and helicopters, French special forces seized the town's airport and a key bridge over the River Niger, killing an estimated dozen Islamist fighters without suffering any losses or injuries, the French army said.