Troops capture another town in northern Mali

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French jets have bombed rebel positions as well as fuel stores and ammunition dumps near their Gao stronghold after capturing the town of Hombori in northern Mali. “At present, Malian and French soldiers are in Hombori,” said a teacher on Friday in the town, which lies 920km north of the capital Bamako and 200km west of Gao. “There are no longer any Islamists on the ground.” Allied forces are pushing ahead to Kidal and Timbuktu, where an alliance of Tuareg fighters and al-Qaeda-linked rebels seized the town back in April. To the west, the source added, French-led forces who had recaptured the town of Diabaly on Monday were pushing towards the town of Lere with the aim of “taking control of Timbuktu” further north. Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal were seized by an alliance of Tuareg rebels and Islamist groups last year. The Islamists hijacked the rebellion and sidelined the Tuaregs. But as the French-led assault against the rebels controlling northern Mali entered its third week, aid workers have warned about a growing food crisis for civilians. Hundreds of thousands of Malians, mainly Tuaregs, are escaping rebel-held areas in the north fearing a backlash. Refugees have been fleeing to the Malian-Mauritanian border, and the UN expects as many as 700,000 civilians will be displaced by the fighting.