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Mali junta leader confirms fall of northern town

(Xinhua)

10:33, March 31, 2012

BAMAKO, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Mali's junta leader, Capt. Amadou Sanogo, on Friday confirmed the fall of the key northern town of Kidal, hours after reports of its invasion by separatist Tuareg rebels.

The junta leader made the confirmation when appealing for external help at a press conference.

The situation has been deteriorating since the junta declared takeover from President Amadou Toumani Toure, citing his failure to provide means for the military to curb Tuareg rebels in the north.

After the fall of Kidal, information from the north indicated increasing danger for two other important towns.

Tombouctou is encircled by rebels while a column of Tuareg fighters are moving toward Gao, local sources told Xinhua. The rebels include the newly formed MNLA and the Salafists of Ansar Dine, who already entered the town of Kidal.

The rebels launched a new round of uprising in January in pursuit of independence of an Azawad land comprising the three northern regions of Timbuktoo, Gao and Kidal.

The fall of Kidal proves the biggest gain by the rebels in weeks of advances, after repeated attempts since the 1960s.

"The situation is for now critical. Our army is in need of support by friends of Mali to save the civil populations and safeguard the territorial integrity of Mali," Capt. Sanogo said.

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