‘‘The city is now secure. There are ongoing patrols by French and Malian soldiers, and we no longer have any reason to fear an attack by the Islamists,’’ he said.
However, the conflict may go on for a long time, warned a high-ranking Algerian security official, based in the vast Sahara bordering Mali.
‘‘The war risks being long and the terrorist groups could use the same strategy used by al-Qaida in Afghanistan against U.S. forces, notably suicide attacks and surprise attacks targeting French and Malian troops,’’ said the security officer, who refused to give his name because the sensitivity of the subject. ‘‘While the French and Malian forces easily chased the terrorists out of the Malian cities like Gao and Kidal, it will be more difficult for them to dislodge them from the mountains in the north of Mali.’’
Meanwhile, secular rebels from Mali’s Tuareg group say they have arrested two Islamic extremists, including the man blamed for enforcing stoning deaths and amputations in Timbuktu.
A statement from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad on Monday said Mohamed Moussa Ag Mohamed of Ansar Dine and Oumeini Ould Baba Akhmed of the Movement for Unity and Oneness of the Jihad, or MUJAO, were arrested Saturday near Mali’s border with Algeria.
The NMLA launched a rebellion last year and seized most of northern Mali. They initially fought alongside Ansar Dine and MUJAO but they soon hijacked the Tuareg nationalist uprising.
The NMLA said the two men have been interrogated and information shared with French troops who are leading a military intervention in Mali. It said the men are in Kidal. The claims of these arrests, however, could not be immediately confirmed.
Charlton reported from Paris. Associated Press reporters Edith Lederer in the United Nations, Michelle Faul in Johannesburg and Aomar Ouali in Algiers, Algeria contributed.