March 30, 2012 / 10:39 AM / 7 years ago

Tuareg rebels enter strategic northern Mali town

Malian soldiers stand guard at the international airport of Bamako March 29, 2012. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Tuareg rebels entered the key town of Kidal in the north of Mali on Friday after soldiers abandoned one of the two local military, military and diplomatic sources told Reuters.

The rebels, who began fighting for an independent north in January, have seized on the confusion caused by last week’s coup in the capital Bamako to prepare offensives on Kidal and two other regional centers in Mali’s remote north.

“Ansar Edine (rebel) forces are entering from the south. The military has left,” a diplomat in touch with civilians in the area said, requesting not to be named.

A military source in Kidal told Reuters the soldiers abandoned their positions in one camp so as to coordinate a counter-offensive. Kidal residents said the besieged town had come under heavy weapons fire from rebels on Thursday.

Reporting by David Lewis and Adama Diarra; Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Mark John

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