GAO: Islamist gunmen attacked the largest city in northern Mali yesterday following two straight days of suicide bombings, intensifying their insurgency on territory reclaimed by French-led forces.
In the first large-scale urban guerrilla assault of the conflict, rebels from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) attacked Malian troops in the streets of central Gao, sending residents running for cover as Kalashnikov bullets and 14.5-millimetre rounds pierced the air.
Rocket-propelled grenade explosions and fire from heavy machine guns and light weapons resounded late into the afternoon before dying down in the evening, when a power cut plunged the city into darkness.
A French Tiger attack helicopter was circulating over the neighbourhood around the governor’s offices and the central police station, the focal points of the attack.
French and Malian forces conducted joint patrols, warning residents that snipers could be hidden in the city.