World Bulletin / News Desk
Islamist fighters declared on Thursday they had secured full control of Mali's desert north, a day after pushing their former Tuareg MNLA separatist allies out of the town of Gao in a gun battle that killed at least 20 people.
The local Ansar Dine group had already gained the upper hand in the northern town of Kidal and the ancient trading post of Timbuktu after government forces were routed in an April rebel advance.
"Our men control all three of the towns in northern Mali," Oumar Ould Hamaha, a Timbuktu-based Ansar Dine official said of the mostly desert territory which is larger than France.
"They (the MNLA) all ran away, we decided not to pursue them. ... All I can tell you is that they are not even in the outskirts the city," Hamaha said of the battle in Gao.
The separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad - the northern territory it claims as an independent state - said its forces beat a tactical retreat in Gao on Wednesday and rejected suggestions they had lost the battle.
"Right now some MNLA units, stationed at the borders of Azawad, are coming back to completely rid the city of Gao of Islamist groups that are terrorising the population," MNLA spokesman Mossa Ag Attaher said in a written statement.
The battle was a culmination of weeks of tension between the MNLA and local Islamists who had helped it take control of northern Mali after government forces were left without a command following a March 22 coup.
The two factions had an uneasy power sharing arrangement after seizing control of the territory.
A Timbuktu resident said on Thursday that MNLA fighters who had been stationed at the city's airport and port had now even abandoned those positions.
Ansar Dine's Hamaha said more than 22 MNLA fighters including a top colonel had been killed during the Gao battle, while three of their fighters had died in combat.
He added that MNLA leader Bilal Ag Acherif had been injured and evacuated to neighbouring Burkina Faso. MNLA's Attaher declined to confirm the identities or number of casualties but a Burkinabe security source confirmed he had been injured.
"He was injured in a mortar attack and was bleeding a lot from the ear, but we managed to stop the bleeding," he said.
A man digging in basemen has uncovered 5 fish fossils over 60 million years old
The US Freedom Act seeks to reign in intelligence community's bulk metadata collection program
An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 struck off the southwest coast of Alaska on Friday
Ukrainian leader Poroshenko says he will declare martial law if the offensive is organized against Ukrainian forces
The upgrade of the home of Jacob Zuma cost the state $23 million
Dias Kadyrbayev is one of three friends of convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev due to be sentenced next week for interfering with the investigation into the bombing
The governor was blamed for Mosul's fall to ISIL in June 2014
15 Chinese nationals have been charged with developing a fraud scheme for college entrance exams.
Macedonia has agreed to take part in the Turkish gas stream project once Russia and Brussels reach an agreement on the strategic project
S.Africa's police minister said that President Jacob Zuma will not be liable to repay money spent on controversial security upgrades to his rural home, part of a project that cost over $20 million.
The influential Catholic church in Burundi have withdrawn their support from the elections.
Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov who has been missing since late April, has defected to ISIL
Both Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have agreed to open further crossing points and to merge their electricity networks.
Special security has been tightened ahead of 'high-risk' Euro 2016 qualifier between Israel and Bosnia
The Moroccan suspect had been detained at the Ras Ajdir crossing on the Libyan border.