Tuareg rebels seize Timbuktu, say Malian `occupation` over
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Last Updated: Sunday, April 01, 2012, 23:53
Bamako: The Tuareg rebel movement on Sunday said it had wrested control of the legendary desert town of Timbuktu, the last remaining government bastion in the north of coup-ridden Mali.

Announcing the "end of Malian occupation", the MNLA (Azawad National Liberation Movement) said in a statement it would ensure "order and administration." The group is fighting for an independent Tuareg homeland in the region.

Timbuktu -- a fabled trading hub synonymous with exotic isolation -- was the last major town in Mali's north not to have fallen into the hands of Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters.

"Yes, the rebels have arrived in Timbuktu", a resident said by telephone. "As we speak, I see them going towards a bank in the city."

"It's true, there are rebels in the town. They were accompanied by a former Malian minister," a hotel worker in the town's centre said.

A young civilian died after he was struck by shrapnel, said Omar Haidara, director of a Timbuktu private school.

The town of about 50,000 residents is a United Nations world heritage site, nicknamed the "pearl of the desert".

The MNLA reiterated today it had "no links with any Islamist group and ... its objective was Azawad, its people and its liberty".


First Published: Sunday, April 01, 2012, 13:56

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