French leader says all Mali to be terrorist-free

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Malian children mill through the heavily shelled police station in Gao, northern Mali, Monday Feb. 11 2013, one day after Mujao fighters engaged in a firefight with Malian forces. French and Malian government forces have regained control of this northern city, after Islamic fighters fought a prolonged battle. Hospital officials and witnesses say three civilians died in the fighting Sunday. It is not known how many extremists and Malian troops died in the more than five hours of combat. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

PARIS (AP) — French President Francois Hollande says his goal is to free all of Mali of "terrorists."

Hollande's comments came the same day French and Malian forces regained control of the strategic northern city of Gao. On Sunday, Islamic fighters invaded the heart of the city.

The dramatic attack was repulsed overnight but highlights the challenges ahead for the Malian and French forces, who initially drove the militants from Gao with little resistance.

Hollande said Monday his goal is that "not one space of Mali's territory be under the control of terrorists."