Malian army repels Islamist attack

Troops prevented an attack by rebels who slipped past army checkpoints to enter the town of Gao.

French troops patrol in the streets of Gao on February 3, 2013. France said it carried out major air strikes on the same day near Kidal, the last bastion of armed extremists chased from Mali's desert north in a lightning French-led offensive. Picture: AFP / Sia Kambou

BAMAKO - Mali's army repulsed an attack by a group of Islamist rebels who had slipped past army checkpoints to enter the northern Malian town of Gao, a military official said on Saturday.

The Malian army official said government forces had defeated the Islamists after more than two hours of intense fighting. The clashes took place after Gao residents reported a group of Islamists entering their neighbourhood.

No death toll was immediately available. Gao was controlled for several months by the MUJWA Islamist group, which imposed a violent form of sharia, until the town was liberated by a French-led offensive in late January.