4 April 2012
Last updated at 16:54 GMT
Civilians arrived in the capital Bamako from Timbuktu on Wednesday
The UN Security Council has called for an end to hostilities in northern Mali and a return to constitutional rule two weeks after the country’s coup.
It voiced alarm at the presence of a militant group with al-Qaeda links inside the west African state.
Army officers deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure last month, saying he had not done enough to fight the Tuareg separatist rebellion in the north.
Since then, the government has lost control of key northern towns.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is attempting to open a dialogue with the rebels so that it can recommence its aid operations in remote parts of the north.
The mayor of the historic town of Timbuktu told BBC News he had seen teenage gunmen roaming the streets, looting and destroying property.
Coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo has said President Toure may be charged with “high treason and financial wrongdoing”. The deposed leader is believed to be in hiding.
Malian political parties have rejected an invitation by the coup leaders to attend a national convention on restoring civilian government, saying they do not recognise their legitimacy.
Towns in fear
The Red Cross said it had had to withdraw its international staff from the north after its warehouses were looted in the town of Gao.
In Timbuktu, Mayor Halle Cisse said he had met a rebel leader and urged him to respect the town’s heritage, including the manuscripts kept in its libraries.
“We should protect the heritage and the manuscripts because there is no security in Timbuktu,” the mayor said on Wednesday.
“Today we witnessed arms and weapons in Timbuktu. In the past we didn’t have any. There are armed people roaming around.
“I have seen 15-year-olds with rifles and weapons. They are roaming the streets and are pillaging and destroying.”
In Gao, around 200 Roman Catholics went into hiding after the town fell to the rebels, who are backed by Islamist fighters.
Rebels there are reported to have attacked a Christian church and the office of the Roman Catholic charity, Caritas.
A Caritas spokesman in Rome, Ryan Worms, told BBC News that Caritas staff were afraid for their lives.
“With this security situation it’s impossible for our organisation, as for other international organisations, to access the area,” he said.
“We are waiting for every party involved in this conflict to ensure the access for relief aid to the population in need in the north, but as for today it’s impossible to access this population.”R Soft Web Hosting