Malian, French Troops Kill 15 Islamists In Gao

Malian troops backed by French soldiers and attack helicopters killed 15 Islamists in Gao on Thursday in fighting to retake a mayor's office occupied by the militants, France's Defense Ministry said on Friday.
Four Malian and two French soldiers were wounded in the fighting that erupted after Islamists were reported to have infiltrated the town in northern Mali. 

Calm had returned in the afternoon, the ministry said on its website.

The conflict in northern Mali risks dragging on for months, cutting off civilians from aid and basic services in a Somalia-like situation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned on Friday.

The independent agency said that it had become harder to contact armed Islamist groups and determine who was in control of territory to get security guarantees for its aid convoys.

But in anticipation of further clashes and suicide bombings, it was stocking medical supplies at a hospital in the northern town of Gao, where it said six wounded Malian soldiers were treated on Thursday, while other wounded were evacuated to the capital Bamako.
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