Malian and French troops on Monday (January 28th) surrounded Timbuktu after seizing the city's airport from Islamist insurgents and their al-Qaeda allies, AFP reported.
The hardliners wreaked havoc before fleeing. According to Mali's culture ministry, the armed extremists torched the Ahmed Baba Centre for Documentation and Research, which housed between 60,000 and 100,000 manuscripts from the ancient Muslim world and Greece.
In related news, troops from Mali, Niger and Chad now control Gao, the French defence ministry said. French warplanes carried out some 20 air strikes Saturday and Sunday in the Gao and Timbuktu regions, the ministry statement added.
On Saturday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to increase its troop deployment from 3,300 to 7,700, PANA reported.