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Final push

French troops pushing ahead.

French troops pushing ahead.

TIMBUKTU — French warplanes have bombed rebel bases and depots in remote parts of northern Mali to try to cut off supply routes, France’s foreign minister says.

Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio that the rebels would not be able to stay long without fresh supplies.

Thirty jets struck yesterday around Tessalit amid fears the rebels could re-group in the mountainous region.

Aid workers say food and fuel prices in northern Mali are rising as some traders flee, fearing reprisals.

Fabius said yesterday’s air strikes were aimed at “destroying the bases and fuel depots” of the rebels.

He said: “If you look at the map, they have taken refuge in the north and in the north-east. But they can stay there for long only if they have ways to get supplies. So, in a very efficient manner, the army is stopping that.”

But Fabius would not say whether the air strikes were aimed at preparing for a new ground assault.

The French launched their military intervention in Mali on 11 January as Islamist militants moved south and threatened the capital, Bamako.

Since then, the militants have been driven from population centres in the north and east.

Kidal remains the only major town not in the control of French and Malian forces.

French troops are at the airport in Kidal, but rebels from a Tuareg group who want their own homeland in northern Mali, the MNLA, still control the town itself.

Malian Interim President Dioncounda Traore has offered to hold talks with the MNLA in order to help secure Kidal. (BBC)

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