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DAKAR, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Secular Malian Tuareg MNLA rebels said on Monday they were now in control of the northern town of Kidal after their former Islamist allies abandoned it.
"Now it is us who are in control," Colonel Mohamed Ag Najim, the MNLA's military commander, told Reuters by satellite phone from the northeastern town, which was the last stronghold occupied by al Qaeda-allied Islamist fighters after Gao and Timbuktu were taken by French and Malian troops.
Asked where fighters from the Islamist Ansar Dine group which held the town were, Ag Najim replied: "They are gone". Another MNLA rebel contacted by Reuters gave the same account but there was no immediate independent confirmation. (Reporting by Pascal Fletcher and David Lewis in Dakar, Laurent Prieur in Nouakchott; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)