Mali rebels capture Timbuktu
Tuareg rebels have captured the ancient city of Timbuktu amid growing instability in Mali in the wake of a military coup last week.
“[Tuareg rebels] have arrived in the town. They are planting their flag,” El Hadj Baba Haidara, a member of parliament for Timbuktu, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.
A resident told Reuters the rebels, who said they had captured all the territory they wanted in Mali, had planted their flag at the governor’s office, the mayor’s office and the main military camp.
Hama Ag Mahmoud, a spokesman for the group’s political wing said: “Our objective is not to go further than the Azawad borders. We don’t want to create problems for the government of Mali, and even less create problems in the sub-region.”
“We don’t want to give anyone the impression that we’re gung-ho for the war, so from the moment we have liberated our territories, our objective is achieved, we stop there.”
Several witnesses told the AFP news agency that rebels were in the city and that gunshots were heard.
The capture of Timbuktu has long been a target of the Tuareg, who are being aided by fighters seeking the establishment of Islamic law across the country. It came hours after the rebels took the garrison town of Gao, following a withdrawal by Malian army forces.
Mahmoud said that having achieved its primary strategic objective, the MNLA was “open to all ... means of negotiations through [the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc]” or other regional powers.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Bamako, said that by capturing Timbuktu, the rebels had “managed to do what had eluded them for decades”.
Our correspondent said that when the army overthrew the government, they said it was with the intention of establishing a genuine democracy in Mali.