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Wednesday, January 30, 2013
DESERT SANDSTORM OVER MALI NORTH:
CONFLICTING REPORTS ARE NOW COMING OUT OF FRENCH HIGH COMMAND CONCERNING THE RECENT REPORTS THAT AIRCRAFT HAVE SECURED THE RUNWAY AT THE JIHAD STRONGHOLD OF KIDAL:
"France says a sandstorm is preventing its forces from entering the last major town in northern Mali in their offensive against Islamist militants.
The troops remained "blocked" at the airport in Kidal, the French defence minister said.
His statement appeared to conflict with earlier reports that French troops were in the town and militants had left. "
Speaking before a parliamentary committee in Paris, Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that the French forces had seized Kidal's airport, according to the AFP news agency.
But the minister said that further progress had been temporarily halted by a sandstorm in the area, about 1,500km (930 miles) north-east of the capital Bamako.
His comments contradicted a report earlier on Wednesday by French army spokesman Col Thierry Burkhard, who said that "French elements were deployed overnight in Kidal".
In addition, Haminy Maiga, interim president of the Kidal regional assembly, told the Associated Press news agency: "The French arrived at 9:30pm [Tuesday] aboard four planes. Afterwards they took the airport and then entered the town and there was no combat.
French forces who took control of Kidal airport in northern Mali are temporarily unable to leave the facility because of a sandstorm, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday.
Le Drian told a parliamentary committee that French troops had seized the airport overnight but had since become stuck there because of the adverse conditions.