The leader of Mali's junta has appealed for foreign help against a separatist Tuareg uprising after the rebels entered the strategic northern town of Kidal.
The West African country is an indirect victim of last year's conflict in Libya, from where weapons and mercenaries spilled out and bolstered a northern rebellion. Last week a coup was staged by soldiers who said the government had not given them adequate means to fight off the uprising.
Yesterday's call for assistance by Captain Amadou Sanogo came a day after Mali's neighbours gave him 72 hours to hand back power to civilians.
"Our army needs the help of Mali's friends to save the civilian population and Mali's territorial integrity," Mr Sanogo said.
The rebels, who began fighting for an independent north in January, have seized on the confusion caused by the coup to prepare offensives on the three northern regional centres.