Malian military battles militants outside Gao

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Associated Press

Posted on February 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 9 at 2:06 PM

GAO, Mali (AP) — Mali's army is fighting jihadists in their desert hideouts just outside northern Mali's largest town.

The fighting in Gao comes a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint on the city's outskirts.

Mali's defense minister is calling on the city's population "not give in to panic" and to cooperate with defense and security forces trying to drive out extremists "trying to infiltrate among civilians."

Tensions rose earlier in the day, after a military spokesman said two men had been arrested with explosives while trying to enter the city. But he later said that information turned out to be false.

Friday's suicide attack killed only the bomber, but it has raised concerns about the future strategy of the militants, who initially appeared to put up little resistance to the French and Malian military advance.

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