Sept 27 (Reuters) - Mali was split in two in March by a military coup that paved the way for Islamist rebels to take over the country's mostly desert north.
Five months after the coup's leader ceded power back to a transitional civilian government, it remains unclear who really runs the West African state.
Here is a timeline of events.
March 22, 2012 - Soldiers seize power from President Amadou Toumani Toure as a protest over the government's ineffective handling of a campaign against northern rebels turns into a coup. The African Union suspends Mali the next day. Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo says he is ready for talks with rebels but wants to preserve Mali's territorial integrity.
March 30 - Tuareg separatist insurgents enter the key town of Kidal in the north after soldiers abandon positions. Sanogo calls for external help against the rebels, who gradually gain control over the northern half of Mali.
April 6 - A rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), proclaims independence for northern Mali, which it names Azawad, after announcing an end to fighting.
April 8 - President Toure resigns, paving the way for the soldiers who ousted him to stick by a deal to restore civilian rule and hand power to parliamentary speaker Dioncounda Traore.
April 9 - Members of Mali's Arab community in Timbuktu form the Azawad National Liberation Front, or FLNA, an armed group to fill the void left by the army's retreat from the north.
April 12 - Traore is sworn in as interim president.
May 26 - The Tuareg-led MNLA and Islamist militant group Ansar Dine agree to merge and create an independent state in the north. The Tuaregs ditch the pact a week later.
Aug. 20 - Traore approves a transitional government led by former NASA astrophysicist Cheick Modibo Diarra.
Sept. 2 - Islamists retake the town of Douentza, 800 km (500 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, disarming without a fight a local militia trying to wrest back control of the rebel-held north.
Sept. 18 - Mali asks the U.N. to approve an "immediate" mandate for an international force to help it recover northern parts of the country. The Security Council had on July 5 endorsed political efforts by the 15-state ECOWAS bloc to end the unrest, but stopped short of backing military intervention.
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