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Mali Conflict Enters New Phase

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The president of France, Francois Hollande, has said that French troops are in the "final phase" of their fight against separatist and Islamic groups who had taken control of most of northern Mali. This new phase, beginning just more than a month after the French military intervened, has been marked by at least two suicide bomb attacks, and the start of guerrilla warfare, after the militant groups retreated into Mali's wild countryside. France has announced plans to pull out in March, leaving the management of the conflict to the Malian military and allied West African nations, primarily Chad and Nigeria. Gathered here are images from the past few weeks of the ongoing conflict in Mali. [37 photos]

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Malian soldiers fight while clashes erupted in the city of Gao on February 21, 2013 and an apparent car bomb struck near a camp housing French troops as Malian and foreign forces struggled to secure Mali's volatile north against Islamist rebels. (Frederic Lafargue/AFP/Getty Images)
Malian soldiers fight while clashes erupted in the city of Gao on February 21, 2013 and an apparent car bomb struck near a camp housing French troops as Malian and foreign forces struggled to secure Mali's volatile north against Islamist rebels. (Frederic Lafargue/AFP/Getty Images)
Shopkeeper Mohamed Toure pours water on a fire in his destroyed shop at the main market in Gao February 23, 2013. The market was destroyed during fighting between Islamists and the Malian and French armies on Thursday. (Reuters/Joe Penney) #
People search for goods at the Gao market, which reportedly burnt on February 21 during an Islamist attack on the northern city, on February 24, 2013. Malian troops were battling armed rebels in Gao in clashes that left the main courthouse in flames, after fighting erupted overnight with heavy gunfire reported around two main entrances to the city. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) #
A convoy of French army vehicles head toward Gao, on the road from Gossi, Mali, on February 7, 2013. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images) #
Malian chief of Gao's gendarmerie district, Colonel Salhiou Maiga poses in the office of the Gao's gendarmerie in Gao, on February 24, 2013. After recapturing the north's cities from the Al Qaeda groups that had controlled them since April 2012, the six-week-long French-led offensive took the fight to the retreating Islamist insurgents' toughest desert bastions. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) #
Tuareg Malian soldiers under the command of Colonel El-Hadj Ag Gamou patrol the streets of Gao, northern Mali, on February 16 2013. After 10 months of forced exile to Niger, Gamou returned to help French and African forces flush jihadists from the region. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A French Mirage F1CR (top) and a Rafale jetfighter fly over Mali, on February 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Anthony Jeuland, ECPAD, French Air Force) #
French paratroopers drop from a plane over Timbuktu airport in Mali, on January 29, 2013. (AP Photo/ECPAD, Olivier Debes) #
Children walk on the Askia mausoleum, built in 1495 in Gao, Mali, on February 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
French army deminers secure a helicopter in a hangar at the Gao airport, on February 9, 2013. Two Malian soldiers and four civilians have already been killed by landmines, and French troops are still fighting off what Paris called "residual jihadists" in reclaimed territory. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Malian soldier is pictured near the market in Gao, on February 22, 2013. Five people, including two suicide bombers, died Friday in car bombings in northern Mali, a day after fierce urban battles between French-led forces and Islamists left up to 20 extremists dead, officials said. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) #
Malian soldiers stand by the remains of a motorcycle used by a suicide bomber at the entrance of Gao, Mali, on February 8, 2013, It was the first known time a suicide bomber had operated in Mali. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Malians carry the mangled corpse of a suicide bomber who blew himself up near a group of Malian soldiers in the northern city of Gao, where Islamist rebels driven from the town have resorted to guerrilla attacks, on on February 8, 2013. The act marked the first suicide attack in the embattled west African nation since the start of a French-led offensive to oust the Islamists from Mali's north. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images) #
Soldiers stand in front of a rocket pod launcher and weapons seized from Islamist fighters, exhibited by the Malian army in the center of Gao, on February 24, 2013. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) #
Malians wave to a French military helicopter near Bourem, Mali, on February 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Pascal Guyot) #
French soldiers take position outside Bourem, Mali, on February 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Pascal Guyot) #
A French army sniper stands next to an armored vehicle outside Bourem, Mali, on February 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Pascal Guyot) #
Men smoke in a room in Gao, Mali, on February 24, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) #
Malian army soldier Sekou Bolly, 30, holds an AK-47 assault rifle as he patrols in Gao, on February 25, 2013. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) #
Travelers driving from Niamey, Niger, line up to be searched at the entrance of Gao, on February 12, 2013. Soldiers from Niger and Mali patrolled downtown Gao on foot, combing the sand footpaths through empty market stalls to prevent radical Islamic fighters from returning to this embattled city. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A French soldier checks passengers of a transport truck arriving in Gao, on February 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A Young Malian girl walks in a Madrassa, or koranic school in Gao, on February 13, 2013. French soldiers on Wednesday recovered an enormous stash of explosives that authorities believe radical Islamic fighters were using to make bombs for attacks on northern Mali's largest city, a Malian military spokesman said. Daouda Diarra said that the French military removed some 800 kilograms (1,700 pounds) of explosive materials from a house in Gao's Chateau neighborhood. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
French soldiers stay covered while clashes erupted in the city of Gao, on February 21, 2013. (Frederic Lafargue/AFP/Getty Images) #
French soldiers take up positions near Independence Plaza, formerly Sharia Square, during fighting with Islamists in Gao, on February 21, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) #
A Malian soldier runs in an empty gutter during fighting with Islamists in Gao, on February 21, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) #
Malian soldiers fire a large weapon in Gao, on February 21, 2013. French and Malian troops fought Islamists on the streets of Gao, as fighting showed little sign of abating weeks before France plans to start withdrawing some forces. (Reuters/Joe Penney) #
A Malian soldier takes cover amid a cloud of leaves and dust, after a rocket propelled grenade was fired by his comrades in Gao, on February 21, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) #
Malian people gather around the dismembered leg of an Islamic fighter outside the police station in Gao, on February 11, 2013, one day after Mujao fighters engaged in a firefight with Malian forces. French and Malian government forces regained control of this northern city, after Islamic fighters fought a prolonged battle. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Resident Mohamed Alassane stands in a room where he and other locals say al Qaeda held European hostages, at the Ministry of Finance's Regional Audit Department, in Timbuktu, Mali, on February 6, 2013. Alassane and a doctor from the local hospital said the wheelchair had been used by an injured Islamist. In the same building, occupied by Islamists for more than a year, the AP found a more than 10-page letter signed by Abdelmalek Droukdel, the senior commander appointed by Osama bin Laden to run al-Qaeda's branch in Africa. The confidential letter spelled out the terror network's blueprint for conquering this desert nation. (AP Photo/Rukmini Callimachi) #
The body of an Islamist fighter, on a staircase in central Gao, following a gun battle on February 22, 2013. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) #
A French soldier stands one kilometer from a controlled explosion of ammunition found in houses in Gao, on February 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A suspected member of Islamist rebel group the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, MUJAO, sticks his hand out of a cell where suspected fighters are held in Gao, on February 11 2013, one day after MUJAO fighters engaged in a firefight with Malian forces. The attack in Gao shows the Islamic fighters, many of them well armed and with combat experience, are determined and daring and it foreshadows a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Children gather at the door of Mohamed Salia's madrassa in Gao, on February 18, 2013. Nearly a month after the al-Qaeda-linked militants were driven out of Gao and into the surrounding villages, students are now returning to the city's Quranic schools. Many classrooms, though, are still half full, as tens of thousands of people fled the fighting and strict Islamic rule imposed by the extremists. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
Malian teenagers watch a convoy of French military vehicles pass through Gao, on February 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) #
A man collects spent cartridge cases at a damaged police station one day after Islamist gunmen battled French and Malian troops, on February 11, 2013 in Gao. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Malian soldier arrests a man at a checkpoint one day after Islamist gunmen battled French and Malian troops, on February 11, 2013 in Gao. (Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images) #
Ani Boka Arby weeps as the body of her husband, Mohamed Lamine, was unearthed in Timbuktu, Mali, on Friday February 8, 2013. Lamine, an Arab, was last seen being led away at gunpoint by Malian soldiers on January 28. Children found his body and that of another Arab man days later, lying facedown in the side of a dune on the outskirts of this desert capital. Human rights groups have warned that the military intervention to take back the territory in Mali's north could open the door to reprisals killings. Especially vulnerable are ethnic minorities suspected of having supported the extremists, including the country's Arabs. (AP Photo/Rukmini Callimachi) #

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