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.
International Organization for Migration chief says 'refugees bring a lot of motivation'
Stockholm-based course will 'have both the Swedish perspective, and also Muslim knowledge' says school principal
Shelling comes amid ongoing campaign to wrest war-battered city from ISIL
According to Rami Hamdallah, Israeli PM Netanyahu is only 'trying to buy time'
'The agreement will allow Sudan to build in the future a nuclear plant to generate nuclear energy for peaceful use,' Sudanese electricity ministry says
A US surveillance plane had its transponders turned off during anincident near the Russian border
Britain has granted refugee status to former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed who was imprisoned in 2015 after a trial that drew international criticism
Police have lifted a number of blockades but a number of French regions have resorted to imposing fuel restrictions per vehicle.
Police claim operation to transfer thousands of people will be smooth and gradual
EIB eyes increasing its contributions to projects aimed at mitigating refugee crisis
Ukrainian leader Petro Porochenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel along with France's Hollande and Russia's Putin also call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the eastern Ukraine
State Dept. does not support group's desire for semi-autonomous zones in northern Syria
Turkish presidential sources say Erdogan and Merkel agree to revisit thorny issue of anti-terror law reform
Interior Ministry reports a record increase in far-right violence, attacks against asylum centers
Azerbaijani president says 1 million 'have been forced to flee the places they were born' by Armenian actions
It took only 31,000 votes for Alexander Van der Bellen the "lesser evil" to beat far-right Norbert Hofer