The head of Mali’s military junta has ordered the army to quit the northern town of Gao.
Captain Amadou Sanago’s decision to abandon the garrison town follows a fierce assault by Tuareg rebels over the past two days.
The move comes after West African regional bloc ECOWAS named Blaise Compaoré, the president of Burkina Faso, as a mediator in the crisis.
Burkina’s Foreign Minister Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé warned they would ask for help from outside Africa if the rebels don’t agree to a truce.
“If unfortunately the message of peace we are putting forward to all parties is not heard, we will then be forced to seek support from the international community in the face of this instability,” he said
Separatist rebels who want to carve out a desert homeland began a rebellion in in January.
The army overthrew the government a week ago, after becoming disgruntled with its inability to drive the rebels back.
Calls for peace have been echoed by religious leaders.
Mohamed Dicko, the president of the Islamic Council of Mali, joined other faith groups on Saturday in demanding an end to the fighting.