Mali

Malian Forces Fear Withdrawal of French Troops From Timbuktu

Islamic militants could return without French assistance

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Malian soldiers advance anxiously in the streets of Timbuktu, a historic Muslim city freed from nine months of Islamist militant rule by French forces in January.

They are on board six pick-up trucks, but they are effectively alone and exposed.

They know they are the primary targets for suicide bombers, who have been targeting several towns in the north that were rapidly recaptured in the first phase of the French-led intervention.

None of the soldiers crammed onto the vehicles wear a bulletproof vest, and fewer than half have a helmet on.