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Islamist rebels gone from Malian town of Douentza

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 22, 2013 at 7:57 a.m.

— Malian and French forces pushed into Islamist-held northern Mali, taking control of a town that the armed extremists abandoned after ruling it for four months.

Douentza had been the outer edge of Islamist rebel control until the militants surged southward earlier this month. While far from the capital, Douentza is only 120 miles northeast from Mopti, which marks the line-of-control held by the Malian military.

On Monday, French and Malian troops arrived in Douentza to find that the Islamists already had retreated from the town, local adviser Sali Maiga told The Associated Press.

“The Malian military and the French army spent their first night and the people are very happy,” Maiga said Tuesday.

A curfew went into effect at 8 p.m., and there was no gunfire reported overnight, he said.

Back in September, a convoy of pickups carrying bearded men had entered Douentza, and in the months that followed the Islamist extremists forced women to wear veils and enlisted children as young as 12 as soldiers in training.

The announcement that Douentza was again in government hands came Monday, the same day French and Malian forces again patrolled the streets of Diabaly after nearly a week of Islamist rule.

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