French and Malian troops have taken control of Diabaly and Douentza towns in Mali. (REUTERS)
French and Malian troops in central Mali have captured two towns from Islamist militants following a week of heavy fighting and airstrikes. French authorities say their forces have taken control of Diabaly, which rebels had seized earlier this month, and Douentza, some 400-kilometres to the east.
Its been two weeks of bombardment. Over a thousand African troops are deployed in Mali to push remove Islamist militants. French authorities say the soldiers have been deployed from Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Niger and Chad. France has 2,150 forces in that country.
The French have also received logistical support from Western allies and intelligence from the United States. But the French ultimately hope that West African soldiers will take the lead alongside Malian troops in securing the country.
Neighbouring African countries are expected to send around three thousand troops but concerns about the mission have resulted in a delay. France launched its operation January 11, a day after the Islamists ventured south from their strongholds and seized a town.
The Malian conflict will likely be top of the agenda at the AU summit. It kicks off later this week.