Rebels and Malian Army Fighting in Malian Town of Gao

Posted March 31st, 2012 at 7:25 am (UTC-5)
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Witnesses tell VOA that rebels are fighting the Malian army in the northern Mali town of Gao. Heavy gunfire can be heard.

A VOA reporter on the scene says there are eyewitness accounts of rebels in vehicles entering Gao, carrying the Azawad flags of their planned homeland.

The advancement of the rebels into Gao comes a day after separatist rebels overtook the town of Kidal.

Tuareg rebels began their insurgency in January.

Last week, soldiers in Mali's capital, Bamako, overthrew the democratically-elected government. The soldiers say they are angry at the government's handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north.

Malian coup leader Amadou Sanogo told VOA in a phone interview Friday that Mali, as part of the regional group known as the Economic Community of West African States , needs international support to protect its territorial integrity against the advancing Tuareg rebels.

The coup leaders are facing growing international pressure to give up power.