Bamako - Witnesses say that dozens of combatants loyal to an al-Qaeda-linked group in northern Mali have descended upon the fabled city of Timbuktu.
Mahi Toure, a local journalist, said he saw more than 90 vehicles on the northern side of town on Thursday night.
He says they included militants from both al-Qaeda's North Africa branch and the Malian Islamist group known as Ansar Dine.
Resident Hamidou Yattara said the men also included former fighters from a secular group sidelined by the Islamists earlier this year.
A security official in Bamako who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media said the Islamists had been meeting this week nearby to discuss strategy before negotiations between Ansar Dine and the Malian government.