A French soldier waits for a French Puma transport helicopter to land on the soccer stadium to test the field in the center of Niono, some 400 kms (300 miles) North of the capital Bamako Sunday Jan. 20, 2013. French troops encircled a key Malian town on Friday, trying to stop radical Islamists from striking against communities closer to the capital and cutting off their supply line, a French official said. The move around Diabaly came as French and Malian authorities said that the city whose capture prompted the French military intervention in the first place was no longer in the hands of the extremists.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Burned out vehicles and scattered bullets dot the streets of a central Malian town after radical Islamists retreated following days of French airstrikes. The Malian military announced late Saturday that the government was now controlling Diabaly, marking an important accomplishment for the French-led offensive to oust the extremists from northern and central Mali. Also Sunday, French forces extended their deployment northward up from the central town of Markala, reinforcing their presence in the towns of Niono and Mopti, said Col. Thierry Burkhard, a French military spokesman.
The AP's Africa chief photographer Jerome Delay has been the region covering the conflict. Here is a gallery of his striking images.
Follow Delay on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeromedelay