Conflict & Justice

Rebels seize northern Mali town of Kidal


Malian military junta leader Amadou Sanogo speaks to supporters at Bamako airport on March 29, 2012 in Bamako, Mali's capital. A bid by west African leaders to seek a return to democratic rule in Mali fell apart Thursday when the team turned back mid-air after a pro-coup demonstration in Bamako airport.



Rebels have captured the key town of Kidal in northern Mali.

The BBC reported that a spokesman for the rebel group National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) confirmed they were in control of the town.

The fighting in northern Mali comes just a week after soldiers ousted the country's democratically elected president and seized power, saying they needed more arms to fight the Tuareg rebellion.

Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo on Friday asked for foreign help to fight the advancing Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Our army needs the help of Mali's friends to save the civilian population and the Mali's territorial integrity," Sanogo told journalists in Bamako, the Malian capital.

More from GlobalPost: West Africa's Ecowas gives Mali junta leaders ultimatum

Ecowas, the West African economic bloc, on Thursday gave Mali's junta leaders 72 hours to restore the constitution, or else face sanctions. The proposed sanctions include sealing all land borders and freezing Mali's assets.

West African leaders met in Ivory Coast on Thursday after abandoning plans to meet with junta leaders in Bamako. Five African presidents were on a plane due to arrive at Bamako airport, but pro-junta demonstrators had taken over the tarmac and instead the plane turned around in mid-air.

Soldiers in Mali, frustrated over their government's handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north, seized control of the country on March 22. The coup happened one month before Mali's presidential election, in which the democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Toure is due to step down.

Toure told AFP this week that he is safe in Bamako and is not being held captive by the military junta.

More from GlobalPost: West African leaders abandon Mali mission