Foreign fighters have arrived in a town in northern Mali, Gao's exiled mayor has told the BBC, confirming reports of an influx of jihadists to the north.
Mr Diallo told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme the foreign fighters were lightly armed and had arrived in Gao on 93 trucks.
"They were identified as coming mainly from Western Sahara and Algeria. They seem to be instructors. They bring small arms with them, not heavy weapons," he said, adding that one or two of the fighters were from Sudan.
Mr Diallo, Gao's elected mayor who was speaking from the capital, Bamako, said that the Islamist group controlling the town - the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) - had also recruited 200 students from local Koranic schools.
"There is a radical Muslim sect in surrounding villages and all young people from the Koranic schools in the area have joined Mujao... not because they support the group, but because they've lost hope after seven months of suffering, they're unemployed; they can't resist," he added.
He said Mujao paid them between $300 (about £190) and $400 a month...
[link to www.bbc.co.uk