After seizing the town of Kidal on Friday, the rebel forces on Saturday attacked Gao, a strategic city in Northern Mali, witnesses said.
Malian military junta leader Amadou Sanogo speaks to supporters at Bamako airport on March 29, 2012 in Bamako. A bid by west African leaders to seek a return to democratic rule in Mali fell apart Thursday when the team turned back mid-air after a pro-coup demonstration in Bamako airport. [Xinhua]
The rebels took Kidal on Friday following a day of heavy fighting and witnesses said the rebels with heavy arms were moving into Gao on Saturday.
If the government forces lost Gao, they have to retreat to Timbuktu, one of the three strategic towns in the west African nation's northern region.
The government forces' defeat came just within 10 days since the mutinous coup that took power from elected President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22.
The regional group, the Economic Community of West African States, has condemned the coup and has given the military junta a 72-hour deadline until Monday to return the power to civilians or face sanctions.
Under the pressure both from abroad and within the country, the junta on Saturday sent a delegation to meet with the president of Burkina Faso, the main mediator in the crisis, seeking outside help.
The representative of the junta, Col. Moussa Coulibaly, told reporters in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, after talks with Burkina President Blaise Compaore, that the junta would "quickly reach a consensus" on how to restore the institutions of the state.