Witnesses in northern Mali say Islamist militants have taken over the town of Gao after clashing with Tuareg rebels Wednesday.
A VOA reporter said the MUJAO militant group was able to push the Tuareg separatist MNLA from the town after exchanging heavy weapons fire throughout the day. After the fighting, he said militants reportedly looted storage areas that had been under MNLA control, and there have been unconfirmed reports of casualties.
The MNLA and the Islamist militant group Ansar Dine seized control of northern Mali earlier this year. In recent weeks, however, fighting has broken out between Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants.
In the capital, Bamako, northern refugees protested for a second straight day outside the prime minister's office calling for government intervention in the north.
Hundreds gathered for a sit-in, chanting "Free the North" and "Send the army to the North."
The Malian army is struggling to reorganize after a coup earlier this year.
Since then, an interim government has taken control, but its future is unclear as interim leaders work to organize new elections.