French, Malian forces take Bourem, jihadist stronghold near north Mali's largest city

A French military official says that hundreds of Malian and French forces are now in the town of Bourem, a jihadist stronghold not far from the region's largest city.

The military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, confirmed Sunday that an operation was launched in the area the day before.

Bourem is located only 60 miles (95 kilometers) away from Gao, the largest city in northern Mali. It is believed that hundreds of radical Islamic fighters fled Gao following a French military operation last month.

The jihadists have staged two suicide bombings at a checkpoint on the road leading into Gao from Bourem.

The French military official said there were about 1,000 French, Malian and other African soldiers now in Bourem.