Official claims from the Chad government that they have killed two of the top leaders of the al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) set the stage for Western claims that the insurgency has effectively been “decapitated,” but it hasn’t slowed fighting, and there are doubts if the reports were even true.
Instead, the fighting around Gao, which France has twice declared “liberated” from the rebels seems to be getting worse, with at least 50 rebels and one French soldier killed in intense battles over the weekend.
The Malian junta claimed to have destroyed a base belonging to the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), an AQIM splinter group, in the course of the fighting but confirmed that the fighting was continuing into Sunday night with no sign of stopping.
Gao is considered a strategically vital city for the junta, as the largest city in “northern Mali,” though there is a large amount of Mali north of it, mostly desert, which is teeming with insurgent factions.
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