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Timbuktu under partial control of new armed group

People arrive in Bamako from the northern city of Timbuktu on April 4 (© 2009 AFP)

Mali’s fabled desert city of Timbuktu fell under the control of a new armed group Thursday made up of Arabs who claim to be neither rebels nor Islamists, sources told AFP.

About 100 members of the National Liberation Front of Azawad (NLFA), created this month, arrived in vehicles and seized control of entries to the east and south of the ancient city, security and rebel sources said.

The entries in the north and west remained under the control of the Islamist group Ansar Dine and Tuareg group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.

The Tuareg have declared an independent state and the Islamists have imposed sharia law in cities including Timbuktu.

“The Arabs have decided to defend their region,” NLFA member Mohamed Ould told AFP.

“We told those who who want independence of northern Mali to leave our region. We want peace in Mali, not to create a separate republic,” he added.

Mali’s vast north has been claimed by Islamist and Tuareg fighters who swept across the region in the wake of a March 22 coup in Bamako, though the junta has now ceded power to a civilian leadership.

Signature : BAMAKO (AFP)

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