BAMAKO - Islamists in Mali have retaken control of a northern town, disarming without a fight a local militia operating there with the aim of wresting back control of the rebel-held north, fighters on both sides said on Sunday.
The fall of Douentza, at one stage occupied by Islamists but for weeks the northernmost town under southern control, illustrates the challenges Mali's government and countries in the region face in securing a deal with or defeating Islamists, including al Qaeda fighters, occupying the desert north.
Oumar Ould Hamaha, a senior Islamist speaking on behalf of the MUJWA group whose men are now in Douentza, 800 km (500 miles) northeast of Bamako, said they took control of the town after fighters of the Ganda Izo militia missed a deadline to disarm.
"Our men came to disarm all those who are armed ... our aim is not to go as far as Bamako," he said.
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