The mayor of the recently recaptured Malian city Gao has accused Qatar, among others, of sending its cargo planes to rebel-controlled airports.
He said that without Qatar’s help, who had also been providing Islamist insurgents with financial aid, the radicals wouldn’t have been able to hold Gao and other northern cities in Mali.
Mr. Diallo pointed out that Islamists had been seeking to impose strict Sharia laws on local residents and virtually made their life a living hell.
Many experts believe that Qatar has been trying to get the upper hand strategically in West Africa and in the Sahel region to challenge Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world. Islamists’ defeat would throw it back, pundits say.
Voice of Russia
France does not intend to remain in Mali after achieving victory over the separatists according to a statement by French President Francois Hollande.
The French military is currently in Mali to help the Malian army regain control over the country and will pass the baton to forces from neighboring African states.
Hollande hailed the "courage and effectiveness" of the French soldiers who, in a short time, have managed to stop advancing terrorists, inflict upon them serious damage with the help of air strikes and with the Malian army secure the release of the major cities of Mali.
The French President stressed that it was an extremely complex operation whose purpose was not only the destruction of the terrorists, but also to preserve the lives of civilians.
Voice of Russia, TASS
In Mali, the joint forces made up of the Malian army and French troops involved in counter-terrorism operations, are celebrating their latest tactical success.
On Monday they freed the city of Timbuktu, 900 kilometers north of the capital Bamako. The city has been under the control of militants and radical groups since last spring.
Timbuktu, according to statements by representatives of the army, "was taken without a shot being fired and with no resistance." The insurgents chose to leave the city and not to engage in combat with the French-Malian joint forces.
As the insurgents retreated they set fire to a store of unique documents at the Ahmed Baba Institute, where there had been tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts.
According to eyewitness reports, the military was met by joyous crowds of local residents, who had for many months been forced to live under the control of Islamists, who were attempting to introduce very strict standards of public behavior.
Last March, the entire north and northeast of Mali was seized by armed separatists and Islamic radicals.
Voice of Russia, TASS
A day after retaking Gao, French and Malian forces are closing in on another rebel-captured strategic Malian city, Timbuktu.
The Mali operation is backed by many West African and European countries and the United States.
On Sunday, France launched an air strike on a Mali-based house owned by Iyad Ag Ghaly, leader of the Islamist militant group Defenders of Religion, media reports said.
The house was destroyed, but there was no immediate word on the fate of the owner.
Earlier, Mali’s army, supported by French troops, took control of the northern city of Gao.
In another development, Sunday saw the beginning of the deployment of Chadian and Nigerian troops to northern Mali.
Sunday saw the beginning of the deployment of Chadian troops to the city of Gao in northern Mali, where armed clashes between the army and radical Islamist insurgents show no signs of abating.
A total of 2,000 Chadian soldiers will be deployed along with 500 troops from Niger in order to help Mali’s army take better control of Gao and advance to the city of Timbuktu.
The war against Islamist militants in northern Mali including the deployment of African troops is expected to dominate talks at the African Union summit in Ethiopia opening Sunday.
A scaling-up of African troops is intended to support the weak Malian army -- boosted by the recent French military intervention -- to battle Islamist insurgents, who seized swathes of Mali's desert north following a coup last year.
The AU has said the priority is to send troops immediately to the embattled West African state.
African leaders are set to commit their support for the force, with presidents expected to also stay beyond the two-day summit for an international donor conference for Mali.
The conference on Tuesday will aim to drum up further funds for Mali operations and will include representatives from the European Union and the UN Security Council.
The Pentagon has agreed to refuel French warplanes that are currently conducting operations against Islamist militants in Mali, the US military said in a statement on Saturday.
President Barack Obama's administration had previously been asked by France for refueling assistance and outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has now approved the request, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
Obama held telephone talks with French President Francois Hollande on Friday in which the two leaders discussed global security concerns and vowed to work together to tackle extremism across North Africa.
France deployed troops to Mali two weeks ago who have been working with government forces to try to flush out radical Islamist fighters including Al-Qaeda linked rebels who had seized control of several northern towns.
Following on from Obama and Hollande's discussion, Panetta spoke to French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss US military support "to deny terrorists a safe haven in Mali."
Voice of Russia, TASS, RBC, BBC, AFP