A photo taken on September 21, 2012 shows local residents in front of the hospital of Gao, the biggest city in northern Mali now under the control of armed Islamist groups. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/GettyImages)
Islamist rebels and Tuareg separatists battled Monday for control over a town in northern Mali near the Niger border.
“The fighting started early this morning and it is ongoing,” Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, a spokesman with the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), told Reuters.
“We have not given up on Menaka,” the town the two groups are fighting over, Acharatoumane told the news agency.
Malian Tuareg refugees exhibit traditional wares on October 21, 2012 at the Mentao refugee camp, 150 miles north of Ouagadougou, during a visit by a joint mission of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The conflict in northern Mali has forced 260,000 Malians to flee to neighboring countries since March. (Ahmed Ouoba/AFP/Getty Images)
Abdoul Hakim, (R) the "emir" of Gao, walks at the Islamist police headquarters, on July 16, 2012 in Gao, northern Mali. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/GettyImages)
The Islamist rebels took over much of northern Mali earlier this year after breaking a partnership with Tuareg rebels. The Tuaregs declared the region independent from the Malian government in April and wanted a secular government, but the allied Islamist groups disagreed and launched an offensive against the Tuaregs.
A spokesman with MUJWA, an al-Qaeda-linked group, told Reuters that its rebels had taken over Menaka. Many Tuaregs were “dead, wounded, and imprisoned,” said the spokesman, who was not named.
The Islamist police patrol in the streets of Gao, northern Mali, on July 16, 2012. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/GettyImages)
Some 300 Malian civilians receive military training from an army instructor on August 20, 2012 at a camp near the central city Mopti to fight Islamists who have been occupying the north of the country for the last five months. (/AFP/GettyImages)
A Tuareg spokesman told The Associated Press that Menaka on Monday was still controlled by the MNLA and the rebels were preventing the Islamists from entering the town.
The Islamist rulers of northern Mali have imposed their own variant of Shariah law. They have been accused of abuses by rights groups.
Islamist rebels of Ansar Dine are pictured on April 24, 2012 near Timbuktu, in rebel-held northern Mali, during the release of a Swiss hostage. (Romaric Ollo Hien/AFP/Getty Images)
People pass by a Islamist group MUJAO sign reading "Allahu Akbar', on July 16, 2012 in Gao, which is under the MUJAO's control, in northern Mali. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/GettyImages)
Amnesty International, in a report in September, said MUJAO and other Islamist groups have committed “horrific abuses that include amputations, sexual violence, and extra-judicial executions” in northern Mali.
A still from a video shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu on July 1, 2012. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)
Fighters of the Islamist group MUJAO patrol Gao on July 16, 2012. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/GettyImages)