The Malian army says it has re-taken control of the central town of Konna, as French and regional forces continue to pour into the country to fight a rebel offensive.
The army says it has gained "total control" of the city after inflicting "heavy losses" on the Islamist rebels there. The militant takeover of the town last week prompted France to intervene in its former colony.
The Malian army has previously reported military successes in Konna, but the claims are difficult to verify, since journalists have had difficulty accessing the city.
The one-week-old counter-offensive by French and West African regional troops appears to have stopped the southward advance of the al-Qaida-linked fighters, but has encountered heavier than expected resistance.
Heavy fighting between French soldiers and militants was reported Thursday in the town Diabaly, which was seized this week by the rebels.
French officials say 1,400 troops are now in Mali. A total of 2,500 soldiers are expected to deploy in the coming days. France says they will stay until the situation is stable.
On Thursday, the United States agreed to help France airlift troops and equipment into the country, though the Defense Department says it has no plans to send troops to the conflict.
Meanwhile, West African military chiefs say 2,000 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Togo will soon arrive in Mali as part of a U.N. authorized force.
As the foreign intervention entered its second week, new signs of a worsening humanitarian condition have emerged.
Doctors Without Borders Friday said civilians are in danger and that it is not able to deliver supplies to the battle-torn town of Konna. The French aid agency said all roads leading to the central town have been closed by the Malian military, despite "repeated requests" for access.
The U.N. refugee agency says it expects an increased wave of Malians to flee their homes in the coming months. An agency spokesperson said Friday it is preparing for 300,000 to be displaced inside the country and for 400,000 to leave for neighboring countries.
Al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists seized control of northern Mali after renegade soldiers toppled the government in March, leaving a temporary power vacuum. The militants have imposed harsh conservative Islamic law across the north.
Article by VOA News