The Tuareg secessionist movement The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) came one step closer to realizing their dream today, capturing the legendary city of Timbuktu along the Niger River and pushing the Malian military nearly entirely out of their claimed territory.
Timbuktu isn’t a particularly rich or large city anymore, and is perhaps more symbolic than strategically valuable, but the Tuareg fighters overran it fairly easily, capping off a weekend which saw them take the other major city downriver, Gao.
Reports say that the Mali military abandoned the city almost immediately, and that the fighting was between the Tuaregs and Arab militias from inside the side. Though the NMLA has centered its demands on Tuareg-dominated territory, the southern cities like Timbuktu are predominantly non-Tuareg.
The Mali military junta, which seized the country just over a week ago and is now pleading for foreign intervention to help them stop the Tuaregs, appears to be backing off some of its claims as well, announcing that it is restoring the constitution. The coup was a response to a failing war strategy, but the conflict doesn’t appear to be going any better since the ouster of the civilian government.