Feb. 26 - The French army is reaching out to local Mali leaders for help in ousting Islamist rebels hiding in people's homes, in what has increasingly become a guerilla war in this former West African colony. Mana Rabiee reports.
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A new 'battleground' in Mali -- this one along civilian frontlines.
On Monday, the French army met with local Mali leaders in the city of Gao to ask for their help in chasing out Islamist rebels thought to be hiding in people's homes.
France intervened in this former West African colony last month to oust Islamist fighters who had seized half the country.
French army Colonel Aldo says civilians here seem comfortable talking to his troops.
(SOUNDBITE) (French) CHIEF OF THE CIVILIAN-MILITARY COOPERATION DEPARTMENT, FRENCH ARMY COLONEL ALDO, SAYING:
"Others come to tell us that the enemy is being sheltered in homes sometimes, so they have the courage to say it, which are good indications for us and for everybody else, and that creates a link between us."
This local leader says residents here know just where some of the Islamist hiding areas are.
(SOUNDBITE)(French) UNNAMED MALE NEIGHBOURHOOD LEADER, SAYING:
"Myself with the administration we did a census there. They are there and everybody knows them."
France plans to start pulling its 4,000 troops from Mali next month despite continued fighting with rebels.
The push to recruit civilian help may be the next stage in ousting a stubborn foe, in what's become increasingly a guerrilla war.
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