March 24 - Islamist insurgents battled military forces on the streets of Gao --- the one-time rebel stronghold that security forces see as critical to their efforts to drive Islamist fighters from the region. Deborah Gembara reports.
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(Gunfire) Fighting in the Malian town of Gao sent locals running for cover. These women say they were forced to flee a local clinic when they heard gunfire. They had shown up to clean the facility as part of rebuilding efforts.
French forces are in a street by street battle with rebels to secure the town after several Islamist fighters slipped past a checkpoint to enter the area. At least one Malian soldier has been injured.
Gao, which was under rebel control for most of last year, is seen as critical to maintaining gains made during the military operation that started in late January.
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