The first of many.
Bamako, Mali (CNN) — French-led forces battling Islamist rebels seized the town of Tessalit in northern Mali on Friday, France’s defense ministry said.
Following air strikes, special forces parachuted in to secure the airport, while an armored infantry regiment moved in on the ground, the ministry said. Chadian forces participated in the operation, which came the same day that a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint, the first known attack of its kind since the launch of the French-led offensive.
The attack by a teenager occurred in the city of Gao, authorities said. One Malian soldier was killed.
“The man approached the soldiers at the checkpoint on a motorbike. As soon as he got close, he set off the bomb,” said Capt. Oumar Maiga, a spokesman for the Mali army.
French-led troops launched the effort to flush out militants in the north last month. They now control Timbuktu and Gao, along with a swath in between the two that was an Islamist stronghold for almost a year.