The Freeland File
Global Market Data
Tales from the Trail
Lucy P. Marcus
David Cay Johnston
The Great Debate
Jack & Suzy Welch
Macro & Markets
Lipper Awards 2012
Personal Finance Video
Photos of the week
Our top photos from the past week. Full Article
Images of February
Exclusive: Soros' son strikes out on his own
30 Mar 2012
At least three winners share record $640 million U.S. lottery
Unpaid bloggers' lawsuit versus Huffington Post tossed
30 Mar 2012
Supreme Court takes up healthcare in secrecy
30 Mar 2012
UPDATE 2-At least three winners in record $640 mln U.S. lottery
Poll: Americans angry with Obama over gas prices
Cheney recovering after heart transplant: spokeswoman
Black friend defends shooter of Florida teen
U.S. and Russia ''disagree'' on Syria
Fri, Mar 30 2012
Urine eggs a delicacy in China
Thu, Mar 29 2012
China car collision caught on video
Mali rebels launch assault on key northern town
UK tells Britons to leave Mali
Analysis & Opinion
Diversity on Wall Street, or a lack thereof
Hardline Sunnis find foothold to push Syria’s revolt toward militant Islamism
By Cheick Dioura and Adama Diarra
Sat Mar 31, 2012 11:56am EDT
GAO/BAMAKO (Reuters) - Heavily armed Malian rebels in pick-up trucks attacked the northern garrison town of Gao on Saturday, capitalizing on the chaos after last week's military coup to make further gains.
The assault came a day after rebels - a loose alliance of separatist nomad Tuaregs and local Islamists - seized the town of Kidal, which is one of the three main towns of Mali's north, along with Gao and the historic trading city of Timbuktu.
Junta leaders, whose neighbors have given them until Monday to return power to civilians or face a crippling closure of trade borders and other sanctions, pledged to come up with proposals "very quickly" to restore constitutional order.
"We do not want to confiscate power," Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly told reporters in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, after talks with Burkina President Blaise Compaore, the main mediator in the crisis.
"We will try to refine proposals to quickly reach an institutional solution acceptable to (West African bloc) ECOWAS, the international community but also of course our national community," said Coulibaly, head of cabinet for junta leader Amadou Sanogo.
In northern Mali, a Reuters reporter saw the rebels entering the town of Gao and hoisting the flag of Azawad, the desert territory bigger than France that they want to make their homeland, before pulling back after meeting resistance.
Some rebels shouted "God is Great" in Arabic, suggesting loyalty to Islamist groups that are not separatist but aim to impose Islamic sharia law on the mostly Muslim country.
Gao, a town of 90,000 people, has the largest garrison in the north, and army resistance was stronger than in Kidal.
Government forces held onto the town centre and in the afternoon rebel units began to pull back, their base in a captured fire station on Gao's outskirts coming under attack from army helicopters and heavy weapons.
"The army is in charge of the town centre and the military camps, which are safe and 100 percent equipped. If so much as a cow walks in front of those camps it will get shot at," Abdou Yehia Maiga, a leader of the anti-rebel local Ganda Koy militia, told Reuters by telephone.
The unrest in Mali, Africa's third largest gold-producer, has been fuelled by weapons brought out of Libya during last year's conflict, and risks creating a vast new lawless zone in the Saharan desert that Islamists and criminals could exploit.
"LOOKING OVER THEIR SHOULDERS"
Mid-ranking officers behind last week's coup accused the government of giving them inadequate resources to fight the rebels. But the coup has backfired spectacularly, emboldening the rebels to take further ground.
Advances by the Tuareg-led rebels, who have joined forces with Islamist allies, are likely to increase Western concerns about growing insecurity in West Africa.
"If you have a successful Islamist revolt in northern Mali, people will sit up and take notice," John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, told Reuters this week.
Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, said that one of the leaders who might be "looking over their shoulders" at the rebellion would be Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, whose government is battling an insurgency by the Islamist sect Boko Haram in the Muslim north of Africa's top oil producer.
Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, whose decade in power was associated with stability but also rising frustration with a political elite accused of condoning widespread corruption, has said he is safe in an undisclosed location in Mali.
Coup leader Sanogo, who has won significant street support, pleaded on Friday for outside help to preserve the territorial unity of the cotton- and gold-producing former French colony.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, the current head of the ECOWAS group, told local state television that a previously announced regional stand-by force of 2,000 could intervene against the rebels once civilians were back in power.
"The West African army should come to the rescue of the Malian people ... Of course, that is tied to a return of constitutional order," he noted.
(Additional reporting by Mark John and David Lewis in Dakar; Mathieu Bonkoungou in Ouagadougou; Ange Aboa in Abidjan and Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Be the first to comment on reuters.com.
Add yours using the box above.
Back to top
New York Legal
Support & Contact
Connect with Reuters
Our Flagship financial information platform incorporating Reuters Insider
An ultra-low latency infrastructure for electronic trading and data distribution
A connected approach to governance, risk and compliance
Our next generation legal research platform
Our global tax workstation
About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.