BAMAKO, Mali Burned out vehicles and scattered bullets dotted the streets of a central Malian town after radical Islamists retreated following days of French airstrikes, according to video obtained Sunday.
The Malian military announced late Saturday that the government was now controlling Diabaly, marking an important accomplishment for the French-led offensive to oust the extremists from northern and central Mali.
“People are calm since the Islamists left the city of Diabaly before it was taken by the Malian and French forces yesterday,” said Oumar Coulibaly, who lives in the nearby town of Niono.
The Associated Press obtained video filmed Saturday by a local resident, which shows people from Diabaly inspecting the fighters’ vehicles and charred weaponry destroyed by French airstrikes and Malian ground forces.
Several armored vehicles belonging to the Malian army also can be seen lying abandoned and damaged at the side of roads in Diabaly, a town of 35,000 that is home to an important military camp.
The video marks the first pictures to emerge from the area, which was taken over by al-Qaida-linked militants at the beginning of the week. The zone remains blocked off by a military cordon and journalists have not been able to access the area so far.
Also Sunday, French forces extended their deployment northward up from the central town of Markala, reinforcing their presence in the towns of Niono and Mopti, said Col. Thierry Burkhard, a French military spokesman.
Burkhard, speaking by telephone from Paris, said he could not confirm claims that Malian troops had recaptured Diabaly. Other French soldiers said the situation there remained murky.