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The Boston Globe

World

Mali Islamists gain ground despite strikes

Insurgents warn France ‘opened the gates of hell’

PARIS — Despite intensive airstrikes by French warplanes, Islamist fighters overran a strategic village and military post in central Mali on Monday, offering an indication that the war against extremists who have carved out a jihadist state in the nation’s north could be a long and difficult one.

Just hours after the French foreign minister said confidently that France had blocked ‘‘the advance of the terrorists,’’ accomplishing its first mission in the conflict, the French defense minister acknowledged that the facts on the ground were different. A column of militants had pushed to within about 50 miles of one of Mali’s largest cities, forcing France to evacuate its citizens in the area and bringing the Islamists a step closer to the capital — closer than they had been before French forces entered the fight.

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