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Al Jazeera spoke to Moussa Ag Al Sarid, the Communications Director of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

He says their fight for Mali’s north is not over.

The rebel’s decision to rertreat from the northern cities was to “avoid a bloodbath”, and a way to confront the armed groups away from civilians, says al Sarid. He maintains Tuareg forces still hold the five borders of the northern province Azawad.

Al Sarid says that allies of the Malinese government are trying to crush the MNLA’s goal of an independent Azawad, and may be supporting the armed Islamist forces, though he could not specify who.

After the northern territory was captured by Tuareg separatists following a March 22 coup, al Qaeda linked groups managed to expell the rebels from their self-declared rule, suspending Tuareg plans for statehood. With large parts of the country left unstable and disconnected from central rule, Tuareg rebels try to regroup, without the resources or funds enjoyed by their rivals.

(Related: Watch Al Jazeera’s video interview with UNESCO)

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