Malian Forces, Islamist Rebels Clash in Gao

French and Malian soldiers clashed with black-robed Islamist fighters in the northern town of Gao, in a surprise militant attack that defied a security lock-down following two suicide bomb attacks in two days.

Heavy gunfire and explosions resounded Sunday through the Saharan town, the largest in northern Mali, as the combined government force fought the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa. French helicopter gunships flew overhead.

The attack marked the first time the Islamist group …