- Title: MALI: Military and soccer victories raise morale in Bamako
- Date: 21st January 2013
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (French) UNIDENTIFIED BAMAKO RESIDENT, TALKING ABOUT MALI'S VICTORY OVER NIGER IN THE AFRICAN NATIONS CUP, SAYING: "We are very happy with Mali's victory yesterday, but the war is the biggest concern for us. We wait for the north to be liberated soon."
- Embargoed: 5th February 2013 12:00
- Location: Mali
- Country: Mali
- Topics: Politics,Sports
- Reuters ID: LVAC82XAQIZ9JVI4H97GGSI2DET6
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Bamako residents experience growing optimism as Malian and French forces drive Islamist militants out of Diabaly, while, in a small distraction from the long-running conflict, Mali defeats Niger in the African Nations Cup.
Newspaper headlines in Mali's capital thanked France and President Hollande on Monday (January 21) morning after French and Malian troops reclaimed the town of Diabaly in the country's north.
The military victory, coming after a victory by Mali's national soccer team in the first round of African Nations Cup on Sunday (January 20) night, brought some optimism to residents of Bamako.
Though enjoying the 1-0 win over Niger, Malians insisted the action to retake the north from Islamic militants was vital and still weighed heavily on their minds.
"We are very happy with Mali's victory yesterday, but the war is the biggest concern for us. We wait for the north to be liberated soon," said one man.
Malian and French troops moved into the northern town of Diabaly early Monday morning, after the Islamist rebels who were controlling it melted away.
Diabaly, 350 km (220 miles) north of Bamako, had harboured the main cluster of rebels south of the front-line towns of Mopti and Sevare until French airstrikes forced them to flee or attempt to blend in with locals, residents said.
"It's very, very good. Every victory gives a little strength to the Malian and French forces to win," said another Bamako resident early Monday.
Despite the advances, a French school in Bamako still had not re-opened on Monday due to security concerns following the hostage crisis in neighbouring Algeria.
Veteran Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for the attack the Algerian gas plant on behalf of al Qaeda and his group said it will stop such attacks if the French military force halts its intervention in Mali.
France has deployed 2,000 ground troops and its war planes have pounded rebel columns and bases for 10 days, turning back an Islamist advance towards the riverside capital which Paris said would have toppled Mali's government.
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