Mali: National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) rebels say they have surrounded Timbuktu
Tuareg separatist rebels in Mali say they have surrounded the historic town of Timbuktu after a rapid advance through the north of the country.
Eyewitnesses in the town told BBC they heard gunfire on the outskirts, believed to be the Malian army firing warning shots.
The rebels said on their website they meant to dislodge the Malian political and military presence in the town.
Two other important centres, Kidal and Gao, fell to them in recent days.
There has been no real fighting as yet, witnesses said.
In their statement, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said they had “liberated” the town of Gao on Saturday.