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Mali: French troops hunting down lingering extremists in city of Gao

  • 073d73127b23c204280f6a7067002726.jpg

    A Malian man sits on a window sill to watch the Nigeria versus Mali Africa Cup of Nations semifinal soccer match taking place in South Africa, in Gao, northern Mali, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)The Associated Press

  • 4b8184da7b25c204280f6a706700adf3.jpg

    Malian men react as Nigeria scores a fourth goal against Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal soccer match being played in South Africa, in Gao, Mali, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)The Associated Press

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    Malian teenagers gather outside a restaurant after Nigeria defeated Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal soccer match played in South Africa, Gao, northern Mali, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)The Associated Press

French troops in northern Mali are searching out terrorists who may be mixing among the population in Gao, after new clashes nearby raised questions about how solid a hold the French military has on the strategic city.

French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said Thursday that the operation to secure Gao is still under way, nearly two weeks after French and Malian troops moved in.

Burkhard said in Paris that there is a risk of "residual presence" of terrorists mixed among the population. Extremists fired rocket launchers at French troops near Gao on Tuesday.

France launched a military operation in Mali on Jan. 11 to help the Malian government restore control. Islamist extremists linked to al-Qaida had imposed severe rule in northern Mali then started pushing toward the capital.