Tuareg fighters claimed today to have seized the strategic city of Kidal and other northern towns as French and Malian troops took hold of Timbuktu from Islamist rebels.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) appears to have taken advantage of the French-led campaign to dislodge Islamists from towns in northern Mali.
The Tuareg movement claimed that it was ready to work with French troops.
But it said it would not let Malian soldiers into Kidal and the other towns it controls, after allegations that government forces killed civilians.
It said it "decided to retake these localities with all urgency to assure the security of the belongings, and more particularly of people, because of the grave danger their lives faced with the return of the Malian army, marching in the footsteps of the French army."
While the NMLA was an important player in the early days of the Malian conflict last April, it was ousted from power in northern Mali by the Islamist Ansar Dine.
Kidal is the last of three provincial capitals across the north that had been under the grip of the Islamists since then.
French and Malian forces retook Gao over the weekend and Timbuktu today.
Meanwhile African and Western nations scrambled to climb aboard the bandwagon and pledged more than £285 million to fund an African-led military force.
Among the pledges of assistance, Germany put up a third transport plane to move African troops, while Britain offered 400 troops, a ferry transport and to let the US fly refuelling missions from British bases.