New armed group takes control of Timbuktu

2012-04-27 22:03

Bamako - A new armed group on Friday tightened its grip on the Malian city of Timbuktu as the Tuareg rebels reached the centre.

Members of the National Liberation Front of Azawad (FLNA), which was set up this month, on Thursday arrived in vehicles and seized control of entries to the east and south of the ancient city.

On Friday the group, which says it has neither a secessionist nor Islamist agenda, moved into Timbuktu's central area.

"Around 100 vehicles full of armed FLNA fighters came today to the [central] Sans Fil area of Timbuktu. They are armed to the teeth," said a Malian security source in the town.

Witnesses and an FLNA member confirmed the arrival.

"The are in the process of taking control of the civil protection building," said one witness.

The entries in the north and west remained in the control of two other armed groups - Islamists Ansar Dine and The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Mali's main Tuareg rebel group.

The MNLA earlier declared independence in the north, a vast swathe of desert it calls Azawad, which it captured along with Ansar Dine, a much smaller group, after a March 22 coup in the capital Bamako.

Ansar Dine, an Islamist group, subsequently took control of Timbuktu. It says it rejects independence for the north and says it is fighting for Islam and to impose sharia law.

Security sources say that Ansar Dine has fallen under the influence of AQIM, al-Qaeda's north African wing, which is holding several Westerners hostage.

Read more on:    mnla  |  mali  |  west africa
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