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French troops begin withdrawal from Timbuktu

TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) — French troops began to withdraw from Timbuktu Thursday after securing the fabled city as they ramped up their mission in another northern Mali city, searching for Islamic extremists who may be mixing among the local population.

French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said Thursday that the operation to secure Gao is still under way, nearly two weeks after French and Malian troops moved into the area. New clashes nearby raised questions about how solid a hold the French military has on the strategic area.

There is a risk of “residual presence” of terrorists mixed among the population, Burkhard said from Paris. Extremists fired rocket launchers at French troops near Gao on Tuesday.

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