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French prez in Mali



TIMBUKTU: French President Francois Hollande flew to Mali on Saturday to support French troops fighting Islamist rebels in the Sahel nation, and he visited the famed ancient city of Timbuktu that was recaptured from al Qaeda-allied fighters six days ago. Hollande, accompanied by his ministers for defence, foreign affairs and development, was greeted by a group of dancers and singers at Timbuktu airport and then went on to visit the Grand Mosque in the UNESCO World Heritage Site city. Heavily-armed French soldiers in armoured vehicles and Malian troops ringed the ancient mosque, built from mud bricks and wooden beams. French and Malian flags fluttered from telephone poles. Local people chanted ‘Vive La France’ and praised Hollande for France’s military intervention in its former West African colony, which after three weeks has pushed Islamist fighters occupying the north into more remote desert and mountains.

US flays suicide attack

ANKARA: Washington and NATO have condemned an attack by a suicide bomber who blew himself up at the US embassy in Ankara killing a Turkish security guard and wounding three other people. The bombing at the entrance to the highly-fortified embassy in an upmarket area of the capital on Friday was the latest in a series of attacks on missions in the Muslim world, highlighting the vulnerability of the country’s 70,000 diplomats. The White House strongly condemned the bombing, saying it was ‘clearly an act of terror’ while saying it did not know yet who was responsible. However Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber was a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front (DHKP-C), a radical left-wing group blamed for several attacks since the late 1970s including suicide bombings and attacks on prominent figures.

Four held over crash

BEIJING: Chinese authorities have detained four people, state media said on Saturday, a day after at least 11 people died when a truck loaded with fireworks for Lunar New Year celebration exploded, collapsing an elevated portion of highway in central China. The accident sent vehicles plummeting 30 meters to the ground, and state-run China Central Television said 11 people were now confirmed dead and another 11 injured. The official Xinhua News Agency said the collapse smashed and buried at least 25 vehicles. Rescue work continues on Saturday. CCTV said Saturday that the truck that exploded took the road without proper registration and had false papers saying it was transporting general merchandise. It said police detained four suspects but did not provide further details.

Yemen kills 10 ultras

ADEN: Yemen’s military killed 10 suspected militants in air and artillery strikes on Saturday, a pro-government militia source said, as authorities battle insurgents linked to al Qaeda who seized several southern towns last year. The assault took place near the town of Shuqra in Abyan province, an impoverished, mountainous region of southern Yemen where tribal law holds sway and Islamist militants have a strong presence. Tackling lawlessness in Yemen, which lies near important oil shipment routes and flanks the world’s biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, is an international priority. Washington and Western governments regard Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as one of the most dangerous offshoots of the militant network. It has planned attacks on international targets and pledges to topple Saudi Arabia’s ruling family.

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