BAMAKO, Mali - A spokesman for Mali's Islamist rebels says they have seized control of the central city of Konna, encroaching further on government-held territory.
Sanda Abu Mohammed, spokesman of the Ansar Dine rebels, told AP on the phone from Timbuktu that the insurgents won control of Konna Thursday.
The seizure of Konna, a city of 50,000 people 700 kilometres (435 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, marks a significant push by the rebels to Mali's centre.
A Mali army spokesman refused to comment on Konna but a soldier, who refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak, said the army had retreated from Konna to the town of Sevare. Local residents said the government air force is sending out planes to battle the rebels from Sevare's military airport.