A Tuareg rebel group said Saturday it was on the verge of seizing Kidal, one of the main cities in Mali's north, taking advantage of a power vacuum in Bamako after a coup by mutinous soldiers.
"Thanks to Allah the almighty and his blessings, we will soon take our land in Kidal," according to a statement from Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine, which is fighting alongside the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).
It said the wishes of Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) leader Iyad Ag Ghaly -- a prominent Tuareg fighter from a rebellion in the 1990s -- would soon be realised with the implementation of sharia law "throughout the region."
The MNLA has distanced itself from the religious demands made by Ansar Dine, seeking only to liberate the Tuareg's proclaimed homeland stretching over northern Mali which they refer to as Azawad.
The Tuareg launched their first rebellion since 2009 on January 17, boosted by the return of heavily-armed battle-hardened fighters from Libya where they worked for slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Several towns in the northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation have fallen as the Malian army was overwhelmed by fighting the desert nomads in their own element.
No official death toll has been released but scores of soldiers are said to have been killed and captured. When the northern town of Aguelhoc was taken in January, France said some 82 soldiers and civilians had their throats slit or where shot in summary executions.
Angry soldiers revolted Wednesday, leading to a full-blown coup by early Thursday as they seized government buildings and attacked the presidency, forcing President Amadou Toumani Toure to flee.