French troops inch north in Mali as Islamists melt away

NIONO, Mali - French troops in armored vehicles advanced on Sunday towards a central Malian town abandoned by Islamist rebels after days of air strikes, moving cautiously for fear of guerrilla-style counterattacks by the al Qaida-linked fighters.
Television showed the wreckage of the Islamists' white pick-up trucks, some mounted with heavy machine guns, lying charred and twisted among the mud-brick buildings of the village of Diabaly.
Commanders of French and Malian forces, who have set up their operations center in the nearby town of Niono, some 300 km (190 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, said the whereabouts of the Islamist fighters remained unclear.
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