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Page last updated at 07:11 GMT, Tuesday, 28 August 2012 08:11 UK

Mali army's fight against islamic extremism

The government of Mali in west Africa is calling on the international community to help it defeat Islamist extremists who have taken over two-thirds of the country.

The extremists, some of whom have links with al-Qaeda, took control soon after Mali's elected government was overthrown by a military coup in March.

The Islamists have since introduced Sharia law in much of the area they have occupied and are also thought to have stepped up trade in drugs and kidnapping, and they are also potentially a threat to Europe.

In the latest in a series of special reports on the Today programme, reporter Mike Thomson has had very rare access to the Mali army, which is attempting to regain control from extremists.

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