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French, Malian troops regain control of Gao in northern Mali after attack by Islamic fighters


French soldiers secure the evacuation of foreigners during exchanges of fire with jihadists in Gao, northern Mali, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. Black-robed Islamic extremists, armed with AK-47 automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, invaded the northern Mali city of Gao and fought Malian army forces Sunday. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (The Associated Press)

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.

Hundreds of residents gathered near the heavily shelled police headquarters in downtown Gao, the center of the fighting. The back of the building was blown open and people climbed through the rubble.

Two legs lay scattered meters (yards) apart. The blood stains on the walls and ceiling suggest that one of the Islamic fighters detonated an explosive inside the police offices.

The disemboweled carcass of a donkey lay nearby and women used their veils to cover their noses and mouths.