While French and Malian forces have taken control of Timbuktu's airport in what NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports may be a turning point in their fight against Islamist extremists, there's also word that before the Islamists fled the ancient city they set fire to a library that holds "thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts."
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The French-led military intervention in Mali is picking up momentum in the campaign to help the Malian government recapture Islamist-occupied strongholds in the north. And while French airpower has tipped the scales in the Malian government's favor, the question now is whether Mali's beleaguered army is up to the fight. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Bamako, Mali's capital city in the south.
For some historical context on the fighting in Mali, we spoke with Gregory Mann. He's an associate professor of history at Columbia University and he's an expert on North Africa, including the area in northern Mali now controlled by insurgents.