Fierce fighting rages in Mali

French and Malian troops fought Islamists on the streets of Gao

and a car bomb exploded in Kidal on Feb. 21, as fighting showed little

sign of abating weeks before France plans to start withdrawing some

forces.

Malian teenagers watch a convoy of French military vehicles pass through Gao, northern Mali, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. A French soldier has been confirmed dead during a military operation in northern Mali, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Malian teenagers watch a convoy of French military vehicles pass through Gao, northern Mali, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. A French soldier has been confirmed dead during a military operation in northern Mali, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Malian teenagers watch a convoy of French military vehicles pass through Gao, northern Mali, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. A French soldier has been confirmed dead during a military operation in northern Mali, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Chadian soldiers securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. French and Malian forces pushed toward the fabled desert town of Timbuktu on Sunday, as the two-week-long French mission gathered momentum against the Islamist extremists who have ruled the north for more than nine months. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)
This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Chadian soldiers securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. French and Malian forces pushed toward the fabled desert town of Timbuktu on Sunday, as the two-week-long French mission gathered momentum against the Islamist extremists who have ruled the north for more than nine months. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)
This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Chadian soldiers securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. French and Malian forces pushed toward the fabled desert town of Timbuktu on Sunday, as the two-week-long French mission gathered momentum against the Islamist extremists who have ruled the north for more than nine months. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)
Malian soldiers man a checkpoint on the Gao road outside Sevare, some 620 kilometers (385 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. French and Malian troops held a strategic bridge and the airport in the northern town of Gao on Sunday as their force also pressed toward Timbuktu, another stronghold of Islamic extremists in northern Mali, officials said. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Malian soldiers man a checkpoint on the Gao road outside Sevare, some 620 kilometers (385 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. French and Malian troops held a strategic bridge and the airport in the northern town of Gao on Sunday as their force also pressed toward Timbuktu, another stronghold of Islamic extremists in northern Mali, officials said. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Malian soldiers man a checkpoint on the Gao road outside Sevare, some 620 kilometers (385 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. French and Malian troops held a strategic bridge and the airport in the northern town of Gao on Sunday as their force also pressed toward Timbuktu, another stronghold of Islamic extremists in northern Mali, officials said. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In this image taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, some 680 kilometers (430 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, a jacket lays on the ground of a destroyed base used by islamist rebels. One wing of Mali's Ansar Dine rebel group has split off to create its own movement, saying that they want to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Mali, in a declaration that indicates at least some of the members of the al-Qaida linked group are searching for a way out of the extremist movement in the wake of French air strikes. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In this image taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, some 680 kilometers (430 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, a jacket lays on the ground of a destroyed base used by islamist rebels. One wing of Mali's Ansar Dine rebel group has split off to create its own movement, saying that they want to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Mali, in a declaration that indicates at least some of the members of the al-Qaida linked group are searching for a way out of the extremist movement in the wake of French air strikes. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In this image taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, some 680 kilometers (430 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, a jacket lays on the ground of a destroyed base used by islamist rebels. One wing of Mali's Ansar Dine rebel group has split off to create its own movement, saying that they want to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Mali, in a declaration that indicates at least some of the members of the al-Qaida linked group are searching for a way out of the extremist movement in the wake of French air strikes. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In this image taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, some 680 kilometers (430 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, bullets lay on the ground of a destroyed base used by islamist rebels. One wing of Mali's Ansar Dine rebel group has split off to create its own movement, saying that they want to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Mali, in a declaration that indicates at least some of the members of the al-Qaida linked group are searching for a way out of the extremist movement in the wake of French air strikes. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In this image taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, some 680 kilometers (430 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, bullets lay on the ground of a destroyed base used by islamist rebels. One wing of Mali's Ansar Dine rebel group has split off to create its own movement, saying that they want to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Mali, in a declaration that indicates at least some of the members of the al-Qaida linked group are searching for a way out of the extremist movement in the wake of French air strikes. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In this image taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, some 680 kilometers (430 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, bullets lay on the ground of a destroyed base used by islamist rebels. One wing of Mali's Ansar Dine rebel group has split off to create its own movement, saying that they want to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Mali, in a declaration that indicates at least some of the members of the al-Qaida linked group are searching for a way out of the extremist movement in the wake of French air strikes. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French soldiers patrol in armored vehicles, in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French soldiers patrol in armored vehicles, in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French soldiers patrol in armored vehicles, in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French soldiers look with binoculars in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French soldiers look with binoculars in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French soldiers look with binoculars in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A French soldier secures a perimeter on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
A French soldier secures a perimeter on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
A French soldier secures a perimeter on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French foreign legionnaires get ready in Niono, some 400 kilometers (249 miles) north of the capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. 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. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French foreign legionnaires get ready in Niono, some 400 kilometers (249 miles) north of the capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. 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. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French foreign legionnaires get ready in Niono, some 400 kilometers (249 miles) north of the capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. 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. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Residents walk past the charred remains of a truck used by radical Islamists on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Residents walk past the charred remains of a truck used by radical Islamists on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Residents walk past the charred remains of a truck used by radical Islamists on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French troops inspect the charred remains of military vehicles used by radical Islamists on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French troops inspect the charred remains of military vehicles used by radical Islamists on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French troops inspect the charred remains of military vehicles used by radical Islamists on the outskirt of Diabaly, Mali, some 460kms (320 miles) north of the capital Bamako Monday Jan. 21, 2013. French and Malian troops were in the city whose capture by radical Islamists prompted the French military intervention. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Statoil's CEO Helge Lund, arrives to meet at the centre for relatives to the hostages in Algeria, which has been established near the airport, in Bergen, Norway, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Algerian forces launched a military assault Thursday at a natural gas plant in the Sahara Desert, trying to free dozens of foreign hostages held by militants who have ties to Mali's rebel Islamists, diplomats and an Algerian security official said. Yet information on the Algerian operation varied wildly and the conflicting reports that emerged from the remote area were impossible to verify independently (AP Photo/Hakon Mosvold /NTB Scanpix) NORWAY OUT
Statoil's CEO Helge Lund, arrives to meet at the centre for relatives to the hostages in Algeria, which has been established near the airport, in Bergen, Norway, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Algerian forces launched a military assault Thursday at a natural gas plant in the Sahara Desert, trying to free dozens of foreign hostages held by militants who have ties to Mali's rebel Islamists, diplomats and an Algerian security official said. Yet information on the Algerian operation varied wildly and the conflicting reports that emerged from the remote area were impossible to verify independently (AP Photo/Hakon Mosvold /NTB Scanpix) NORWAY OUT
Statoil's CEO Helge Lund, arrives to meet at the centre for relatives to the hostages in Algeria, which has been established near the airport, in Bergen, Norway, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Algerian forces launched a military assault Thursday at a natural gas plant in the Sahara Desert, trying to free dozens of foreign hostages held by militants who have ties to Mali's rebel Islamists, diplomats and an Algerian security official said. Yet information on the Algerian operation varied wildly and the conflicting reports that emerged from the remote area were impossible to verify independently (AP Photo/Hakon Mosvold /NTB Scanpix) NORWAY OUT
French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti Tuesday Jan. 15, 2013. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign Tuesday to wrest control of a small Malian town from armed Islamist extremists who seized the area, including its strategic military camp. A a convoy of 40 to 50 trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast as France prepares for a possible land assault. Several thousand soldiers from the nations neighboring Mali are also expected to begin arriving in coming days. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti Tuesday Jan. 15, 2013. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign Tuesday to wrest control of a small Malian town from armed Islamist extremists who seized the area, including its strategic military camp. A a convoy of 40 to 50 trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast as France prepares for a possible land assault. Several thousand soldiers from the nations neighboring Mali are also expected to begin arriving in coming days. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti Tuesday Jan. 15, 2013. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign Tuesday to wrest control of a small Malian town from armed Islamist extremists who seized the area, including its strategic military camp. A a convoy of 40 to 50 trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast as France prepares for a possible land assault. Several thousand soldiers from the nations neighboring Mali are also expected to begin arriving in coming days. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2013 file photo, French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti. The Obama administration has declared it cannot accept new terrorist sanctuaries in Mali or anywhere else and has promised to support French and African efforts to restore security. Yet after almost a year of disorder in the West African nation, Washington is still keeping the conflict at arm’s length. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2013 file photo, French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti. The Obama administration has declared it cannot accept new terrorist sanctuaries in Mali or anywhere else and has promised to support French and African efforts to restore security. Yet after almost a year of disorder in the West African nation, Washington is still keeping the conflict at arm’s length. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2013 file photo, French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti. The Obama administration has declared it cannot accept new terrorist sanctuaries in Mali or anywhere else and has promised to support French and African efforts to restore security. Yet after almost a year of disorder in the West African nation, Washington is still keeping the conflict at arm’s length. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French legionnaires of the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment based in Orange, southern France, exiting a military plane at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lempin, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French legionnaires of the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment based in Orange, southern France, exiting a military plane at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lempin, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French legionnaires of the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment based in Orange, southern France, exiting a military plane at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lempin, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) a French soldier of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment based in Le Mans, western France, distributes smoke grenades at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Arnaud Roine, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) a French soldier of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment based in Le Mans, western France, distributes smoke grenades at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Arnaud Roine, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) a French soldier of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment based in Le Mans, western France, distributes smoke grenades at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Arnaud Roine, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD), a French soldier of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment based in Le Mans, western France, prepares ammunition before distribution at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Arnaud Roine, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD), a French soldier of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment based in Le Mans, western France, prepares ammunition before distribution at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Arnaud Roine, ECPAD)
In this picture dated Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 and released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD), a French soldier of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment based in Le Mans, western France, prepares ammunition before distribution at Bamako airport, Mali. An official at France's Defense Ministry says the country will "gradually deploy" a total of 2,500 troops to Mali, and the French president says the military operation will last until security has been restored and African forces are ready to take charge. (AP Photo/Arnaud Roine, ECPAD)
Malian soldiers helped by French troops, move a broken helicopter out a hangar to make room for more incoming troops at Bamako's airport Tuesday Jan. 15. 2013. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign Tuesday to wrest control of a small Malian town from armed Islamist extremists who seized the area, including its strategic military camp. A a convoy of 40 to 50 trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast as France prepares for a possible land assault. Several thousand soldiers from the nations neighboring Mali are also expected to begin arriving in coming days. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Mali fighting
Malian soldiers helped by French troops, move a broken helicopter out a hangar to make room for more incoming troops at Bamako's airport Tuesday Jan. 15. 2013. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign Tuesday to wrest control of a small Malian town from armed Islamist extremists who seized the area, including its strategic military camp. A a convoy of 40 to 50 trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast as France prepares for a possible land assault. Several thousand soldiers from the nations neighboring Mali are also expected to begin arriving in coming days. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

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