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Report: Pro-Government Militia Takes Control of Northern Malian City

FILE - Members of an armed group are shown in Kidal, Mali, July 13, 2016. Clashes were reported in the restive northern city between pro-government and former rebel groups, both based there since February.

A pro-government Taureg militia group was reported Thursday to be taking control of Mali's northern city of Kidal, after fighting broke out between the militia and a coalition chiefly made up of former Taureg rebels.

A witness told VOA's French-to-Africa service that Gatia militia fighters were combing the town to weed out any rebels who might still be hiding. But the situation in Kidal remained generally confused and unsettled, and it was unclear whether there are any casualties.

Ambeyri Ag Rissa, a leader of the Taureg coalition, the Coordination of Azawad Movements, told VOA that officials had just finished meeting on a truce signed Sunday that called for sharing control of the city when gunfire broke out. Machine guns could be heard in the background as he spoke.

The situation in Kidal had remained on edge even after the truce was signed, and each side blamed the other for the outbreak of fighting.

The coalition said a Gatia militia car tried to illegally cross a checkpoint, while the militia accused the coalition of deliberately blocking main roads and firing at close range.

Taureg separatists briefly took control of northern Mali in 2012 before al-Qaida-linked militants drove them out.

A French force took back the region from the Islamists, and thousands of U.N. peacekeepers and Malian soldiers have been overseeing a very shaky peace agreement while they try to stop Islamic extremists from taking advantage of the situation.

VOA's French-to-Africa service contributed to this report.