Bamako - Mali's Red Cross said on Saturday it had delivered five tons of supplies and medicine to rebel-held Timbuktu, in the north of the country, as witnesses reported deaths in the region.
"We took five tons of supplies and rice, to the Timbuktu hospital, mats, blankets, but also medicine," Red Cross president Adam Diarra told AFP after leaving the city where the team arrived on Thursday.
"There is an emergency," in the city which, fell to Tuareg rebels and armed Islamists 10 days after a coup ousted Mali's president Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, Diarra said.
"There is a need for food, the reorganisation of the distribution of drinking water, electricity. There are numbers of displaced who need urgent assistance," he added.
He said the armed groups had confirmed their agreement to open a "humanitarian corridor" which they had accepted on principle provided supplies do not originate from France or the United States.
"We are going to organise ourselves rapidly. The different groups have accepted the idea of a humanitarian corridor, we will send them a letter very soon to formalise all of that," he added.
"We will assist Timbuktu, but also other regions in the north."
Local witnesses meanwhile reported that three civilian adults had been shot dead in the region while a landmine had killed a child.
"Travelling from Timbuktu towards Douenzta further south], I saw three civilians shot dead by the side of the road," Alassane Diakite, a civil servant from Timbuktu told AFP. The victims were two men and a woman.
Armed gangs had been targeting the road since the rebels took hold of the area, he said.
Also Saturday, the body of a child was found in Niafunke, 200km southwest of Timbuktu - but still in the rebel-held north. According to local journalist Moussa Keita, the child had stepped on a mine.
Several witnesses in the north say that civilians had had to endure rape, pillage and other abuse from the armed forces now controlling the region.
According to UN figures, 268 000 people have fled the violence, either quitting the country altogether or moving to other parts of Mali.