Islamist fighters in northern Mali have driven Tuareg rebels from their final stronghold in the region, witnesses told AFP on Wednesday.
"The Tuareg rebels were driven out by the Islamists from their last bastion, Ansogo, situated 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Gao," said a local government official.
"Now our whole region is in the hands of Islamists."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he added that he had met with the "new leaders who said they are not there to hurt the population."
He said that while the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) had still controlled part of the zone, "now it's finished, they have run off into the bush."
The information was confirmed by Malian doctor Albert Djigue, who on Wednesday drove to the city of Gao from the Niger border.
"From the Niger border passing through Ansogo before arriving in Gao, I didn't see a single MNLA fighter. They have all left. It is the Islamists who are in charge," he said.
Djigue said the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) had reinforced their positions, taking over the municipality's public works building as well as the Centre for Educational Organisation.
The Tuareg rebels spearheaded the takeover by various armed groups of northern Mali in late March, but have slowly been pushed aside by Al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups.
On June 27 they retreated from Gao after bloody clashes with MUJAO which left some 35 people dead.