French, Malian troops regain control of Gao
11 February 2013, 16:10
Gao - French and Malian government forces have regained
control of this strategic northern city, after Islamic fighters invaded and
fought a prolonged battle on Sunday.
Hundreds of Gao residents gathered around the heavily
damaged police headquarters building in the centre of the city early on Monday
where body parts lay strewn about a day after al-Qaeda-linked militants
launched a surprise attack on the city.
"Yesterday we had the gunfire and hid in our homes all
evening," said Soumayla Maiga as he stood with his friends near the rubble
of the police offices. "We were stunned when we came out and saw what
The radical Islamic fighters, who had ruled Gao for nearly
10 months before they were ousted at the end of January, returned to the city
by crossing the Niger River in wooden boats to launch their assault Sunday
afternoon. The fighting lasted more than five hours.
The walls and ceiling inside the police building were
heavily stained with blood and the damage was consistent with an explosion,
suggesting a suicide bomber blew himself up in the police offices.
Residents who had cowered in their homes during the heavy
gunfire cautiously ventured out onto the streets where groups in circles looked
at the human remains.
Women used their veils to cover their noses and mouths as
they passed the blown off legs and a disemboweled donkey which lay in front of
the police building.
Two civilians died from gunshot wounds, while 10 others were
wounded, confirmed Dr Moulaye Djiteye at the Gao hospital. The body of a third
man was carted away later on Monday morning; residents said he had been hit by
a stray bullet while riding by on his motorcycle.