Malian teenagers watch French soldiers pass through Gao, in northern Mali, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.
Malian teenagers watch French soldiers pass through Gao, in northern Mali, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. Jerome Delay/AP
As France continues to talk about withdrawing troops from Mali, following its military operations there against Islamist attackers, there are new reports of fighting in the northern city of Gao.
Witnesses are telling reporters they hear automatic gunfire and heavier explosions, according to VOA. Fighters are reportedly "holed up in the mayor's office", according to France24. That town was liberated in early February by French and Malian troops from Islamist fighters' control. But it's also been the scene of recent clashes.
About two weeks ago, Islamist militants attacked Gao following a pair of suicide bombings. Some militants sailed up to the city's docks, disembarked and began firing. The surprise assault lasted several hours and attackers focused on police headquarters. Troops also discovered a gigantic bomb, weighing about 1,700 pounds in an abandoned house.
Still, France is proceeding with plans to depart Mali, even though the French defense minister admits the African force intended to replace French troops is not yet ready to take over, says the Associated Press.