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 second national satellite will be launched by Turkmenistan
The little worn path is home to unique geological features and ancient lakes, remnants of the region’s wet period, which ended 4000 years ago.
With its stunning rock formations remnant of a wet period in the region dating back to its ending 4,000 years ago, the Ennedi plateau is seen as a contender for a heritage listing with UNESCO.
Ansar Dine, an armed group based in northern Mali, has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack that killed at least five UN peacekeepers
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urges Cairo to open crossing with suffocating Gaza Strip 'on permanent basis'
A Palestinian girl dwho attempted to stab a soldier was killed by Israeli soldiers
A day of violent farmers' protests in Greece blazed on into the night as police fought demonstrators in the capital for the first time over pensions and reforms
'We do need to have peace [in Syria], we need to have negotiations and for that we need to stop bombings against the civilians,' Manuel Valls says
In a statement at the Munich conference, US Secretary of State has said that Russia will continue to face sanctions unless it implement the agreements made at Minsk last year
Medvedev has said the current conditions in the world between Russia and the West are akin to a Cold War.
At least one teen may have fired fatal shots, authorities say
Two loyalists one a local elected member from the ruling CNDD-FDD party and another a member of a youth league have been killed in Burundi
According to interior minister Angelino Alfano, a second autopsy in Italy into the death of the Italian student Gulio Regeni Mr Alfano said the student had suffered 'something inhuman, animal-like, an unacceptable violence.'
A MiG-23 fighter jet of Libya's government has been shot down while carrying out airstrikes against rebel positions in the coastal city of Benghazi.
Venezuela's Supreme Court approved President Nicolas Maduro's "economic emergency" decree on Thursday, which has been seen as an attempt to render the legislative body useless.
First meeting between leaders of Eastern, Western Christianity in 1,000 years