Mali has lifted a five-month-old state of emergency, on the eve of the start of a presidential election campaign for July 28 polls in the troubled west African nation, the security ministry said.

The state of emergency was put in place on January 12, a day after France launched a surprise intervention to help Mali drive out armed groups occupying its north.

France’s intervention came as al-Qaeda-linked groups holding key towns in the vast arid north pushed further south towards the capital Bamako.

The groups piggybacked on a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg - which started in January 2012 - to take control of the north, where they imposed a harsh form of sharia law.

Bamako remained crippled by political crisis after a March 2012 coup by soldiers furious at their rout at the hands of the rebel groups.

With the armed groups driven into the desert, Mali is pinning its hopes for stability on the July 28 polls - a date set under pressure from the international community.

However with some 500,000 still displaced after the conflict, many have raised concerns over the difficulty of holding an election so soon.

Malian troops on Friday entered the Tuareg rebel stronghold of Kidal, which had been held by the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) since the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups were driven out.

The lack of government control in the key northern city was seen as a major obstacle to organising the election.

Source: AFP