Feb. 11 - The mayor of Mali's northern city Gao warns that Islamist insurgents have many ways of entering the town undetected. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
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Malaian and French soldiers on the streets of Gao a day after al-Qaeda linked militants launched a surprise attack to retake the town.
The rebels, who had occupied Gao for ten months before being pushed out by French and Malian forces, snuck back in under the cover of darkness.
The brazenness of the rebel raid, which followed successive blasts by two suicide bombers, was a surprise to the French-led military operation which has so far faced little real resistance from the Islamists.
But it was no surprise to the town's mayor.
(SOUNDBITE)(French) GAO MAYOR, SADOU HAROUNA, SAYING:
"These people can go everywhere. Gao has entrances everywhere. You can enter - by car, by motorcycle, by foot, by donkey."
France intervened in Mali last month to combat Islamist forces who had seized control of the north.
France wants to start pulling out troops in March. They want to hand security over to an African military force.
But the African contingent is still struggling, raising the risk that Paris' forces could face "mission creep" and be obliged to extend their stay.