Tuareg separatists launched attacks in the town of Gao in northern Mali on Saturday, taking advantage of the chaos left over by a 10-day old military coup.
Rebels arrived in the strategic garrison town in pick-up trucks loaded with arms. A reporter from the Reuters news agency described hearing heavy weapons fire. This new assault came after the rebels took Kidal, another key town in the north on Friday.
Tuareg rebellions have flared up regularly. This latest one since January.
Saturday’s attacks come after Malian soldiers launched a military coup after complaining about the lack of resources to fight the northern insurgency.
But one analyst said their revolt, which saw President Amadou Toumani Toure overthrown, has backfired, allowing rebels to take further ground.
“We are going to fight with every resource we’ve got. I ask everyone to be a patriot so that we can win against this enemy. This enemy is not invincible, we can beat them,” said Lieutenant Doumbia, chief of operations for the Malian army in Gao.
Regional leaders have given the new military junta just a few days to return to civilian rule.