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Mali rebels advance despite French airstrikes

Mali rebels advance despite French airstrikes

Mali: Rebels have grabbed more territory in Mali, inching closer to the capital despite intensive aerial bombardment by French warplanes, Al Jazeera reported quoting French and Malian authorities.

The al-Qaeda-linked rebels overran the garrison village of Diabaly in central Mali, France's defence minister said in Paris on Monday.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said the rebels "took Diabaly after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army that couldn't hold them back"'.

The Malian military is in disarray and has let many towns fall with barely a shot fired since the insurgency began almost a year ago in the northwest African nation.

French military forces, who began batting in Mali on Friday, widened their aerial bombing campaign against the rebels occupying northern Mali, launching airstrikes for the first time in central Mali to combat the new threat.

Al Jazeera's correspondent Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from the capital Bamako, said: "There are reports of about 60 fighters being killed thus far while Doctors without Borders say they are very concerned about the lives of civilians in the region."

The rebels, who come from several nations besides Mali, had been bottled up in the narrow neck of central Mali. But by now sweeping in from the west, they are now only 400km from Bamako, in southern Mali.

Before France sent its forces in on Friday, the closest known spot the rebels were to the capital was 680km away, although they might have infiltrated closer than that.

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