News24

Islamists advance in Mali

2013-01-08 22:16

Bamako - The Malian army fired warning shots when Islamist rebels neared the government's last north-eastern checkpoint in the village of Kona, residents confirmed on Tuesday.

"Yesterday when the Malian army learned of the presence of rebel troops near Kona, it fired two shots in the air with heavy weapons," said resident Sekou Komina by telephone.

"After two shots, there was nothing else." Calm had since returned to Kona, 680km north-east of the capital Bamako, he said, and there were no reports of dead or injured.

A Malian army officer confirmed the incident but refused to give further details.

The rebel group seen is suspected to be Ansar Dine, which last week denounced a December ceasefire agreement with the government, saying it wanted autonomy for the northern regions.

The group is suspected to be marching towards the central town of Mopti, a commercial hub linking Mali to Burkina Faso.

Various armed groups have been in control of around two thirds of Mali since early last year, when they took advantage of a power vacuum created by a military coup in Bamako in March.

The UN Security Council last month approved military intervention on the strife-plagued West African country.