World Bulletin / News Desk
Rebels battled French and Malian troops following two straight days of suicide bombings.
Sunday's attack by rebels on territory reclaimed by French-led forces was the first large-scale urban guerrilla assault of the conflict.
It started early in the afternoon when Malian soldiers clashed with Islamists in the city centre, near an empty police station which the rebels had used as their base until being driven from the city last month.
Residents ran for cover as Kalashnikov bullets and 14.5-millimetre rounds pierced the air.
One witness said that after a fierce gunbattle, French troops had intervened. He reported seeing one body, which he thought was probably a civilian caught in the crossfire.
Rocket-propelled grenade explosions and fire from heavy machine guns and light weapons resounded late into the afternoon before dying down in the evening, when a power cut plunged the city into darkness.
Colonel Mamadou Sanake of the Malian army said the rebels had infiltrated the city by motorcycle and via the Niger river, which passes near the governor's offices where some of the fighting took place.
MUJAO, one of the rebels groups that seized control of northern Mali for 10 months in the wake of a military coup in March 2012, claimed the attack and a suicide bombing Saturday, its second in two days.
"The combat will continue until victory, thanks to God's protection," said spokesman Abou Walid Sahraoui. "The mujahideen are in the city of Gao and will remain there."
A French force on the ground, backed by French air power, has over the last month driven the Islamists from the cities that were once their strongholds into the desert wilderness.
The French, who have around 4,000 troops in Mali, are now focusing their offensive operations several hundred kilometres (miles) north of Gao.Last Mod: 11 Şubat 2013, 11:34