World Bulletin / News Desk
Fighters seized control of the headquarters of the local separatist rebels in the north Mali town of Gao on Wednesday after a bloody battle that killed at least 20, residents said.
The battle follows weeks of tension between the separatist Tuareg-led MNLA and better-armed local Islamists who helped it take control of the northern two-thirds of Mali in April.
"The Islamists are now controlling the situation because they are the only ones driving around in the town, some in their vehicles and others on vehicles they have recovered from the MNLA," Gao resident Moktar Toure told Reuters by telephone.
"But we live in fear of an MNLA counter-offensive against the Islamists even though they are trying to reassure people that it is over," Toure said.
A spokesman of the Islamist Ansar Dine group said their fighter had taken control of the governor's residence and chased away MNLA fighters.
One witness told Reuters earlier on Wednesday that the former governor's residence in Gao which the MNLA had turned into the "palace" of the northern territory it calls the independent state of Azawad, had been heavily damaged by heavy arms fire during the battle.
"The MNLA and MUJWA are launching rockets at each other between the two markets of the town and the governor's building," Gao resident Sila Askou said by telephone of the governor's premises in which the MNLA has set up headquarters.
Gao resident Habsatou Cisse said by telephone she saw five bodies from the house in which she was sheltering. Others reported 11 bodies and four bodies in separate locations. They said civilians were among those killed but had no other details.
Separately, residents in the northern town of Timbuktu 300 km (200 miles) to the west, said they had seen armed convoys of the local Ansar Dine Islamist group - a MUJWA ally - racing to Gao.
"We are going to obliterate the MNLA today," local Islamist Ousmane Toure said by telephone. "Enough is enough."
Malick Aliou Maiga, another resident contacted by telephone, said the MNLA headquarters had been badly damaged in the battle, which started around mid-morning.
MNLA spokesmen based in Mali and in Europe were not immediately contactable for comment but one member of the group, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attack on the headquarters had been repelled.
"Either the MUJWA backs off or we are heading towards an all-out armed confrontation," said the MNLA member.
"My first impression is the UK offer is below our expectations and this risks worsening the situation of our citizens in the UK," EU President Donald Tusk told a news conference after the second day of a Brussels summit.
"This June 23, the United Nations mission in Colombia will announce that the FARC has handed over 100 percent of its weapons," Santos told an economic forum in Paris.
Macron is seeking to change a two-decade old EU rule aimed at allowing firms to hire workers with specialised skills from other member states on a temporary basis -- one Paris critics say price French workers out of jobs.
Merkel's deputy spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters Friday that the Berlin meeting would bring together British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron as well as the leaders of Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Norway.
Argentinian football star Lionel Messi agrees to pay €252,000 ($281,000) fine instead of serving 21-month prison sentence
Maarif Foundation officials reassures parents fearful of closures, saying the group will provide continuity of supervision
Foundation in memory of British lawmaker murdered by far-right extremist backs tech giant's campaign
Remarks by Quebec premier not helpful, Muslim council president says
Principles ‘indispensable’ to ‘promoting sustainable stability and security in our societies’, ambassador Koja says
Attackers tried to set free Allied Democratic Force prisoners in North Kivu
Sanctions would 'seriously' endanger bilateral ties, Sergey Lavrov says in telephone call with Rex Tillerson
Health care, education to be granted to EU citizens living in UK with special status
"For me, the future of the (remaining) 27 member states comes before the exit negotiations with Great Britain" said Merkel, Europe's most influential leader, as she arrived for the two-day meeting.
Turkey seeks to ‘tighten Muslim grip on Temple Mount’, prominent Israeli daily asserts