“Soldiers combing abandoned jihadist hideouts and sand-dusted streets for weapons have found industrial-strength explosives, raising the specter Wednesday of bomb attacks by the jihadists who fled into the desert after the arrival of French forces.
As the French began talking about a timeline for a troop drawdown, there also were growing concerns that the Islamic militants may be creeping back toward their stronghold amid reports of clashes near Gao.
France’s defense minister said French troops had clashed the day before with Islamic extremists firing rocket launchers outside Gao. One of the rockets landed near a tree in a residential neighborhood.
Reports of the clashes and weapons stashes rattled residents still fearful less than two weeks after the departure of the radicals belonging to the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO.