Islamists in northern Mali pushed their secular former allies out of the town of Lere today.
Ansar Dine spokesman Sanda Abu Mohammed said that the group now controls the town 37 miles from the Mauritania border.
Ansar Dine had joined together with secular Tuaregs, taking advantage of the power vacuum cause by a March coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure.
They declared the Azawad region independent.
But a number of al-Qaida-linked foreign forces flooded into the lawless region - mainly from Libya - and joined Ansar Dine in imposing a harsh sharia law in the north, driving a wedge between the local ethnic Tuaregs and Islamists.
Tuareg spokesman Mohamed Ag Attaye confirmed the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad fighters had retreated from the town.
But he said the traditionally nomadic people had no problem operating in the deserts outside major settlements.
A plan from the African Union and east African group Ecowas to put together a foreign force to drive out the militants is expected to receive UN security council approval in early December.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond believes himself vindicated by the High Court ruling that his Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) is independent.
A look at the causes and possible outcomes of Silvio Berlusconi and his right-wing coalition's lead in the polls.
Attacks such as yesterday's horrific murder in Woolwich didn't happen before the 'war on terror.' It's time we recognised the consequences of the conflicts we've unleashed