Close to 30 000 poeple in Mali have been internally displaced in the past week alone since the war broke out in Konna, UK-based humanitarian agency Oxfam International says, as the French Army launch ground operations to root out Islamist fighters.
“At least 30 000 people are already reported to have been displaced by recent combat, adding to the 345 000 Malians who have been displaced already over the last year,” Oxfam Mali country director Michael Quinn. “Further fighting will inevitably lead to greater numbers still, and the international community cannot turn its back on those most in need.”
Quinn’s warning is unlikely to be heeded, as the war takes a violent turn this week with the arrival of more than 3000 African troops, meant to back up some 800 French troops and 5000 Malian troops already engaged in the battlefield. 15 Ecowas member countries have so far agreed to send troops to Mali. The latest fighting was reported in Diabali, some 400 km east of the capital city Bamako, where the government has barred any journalist to enter the city.
Details were still sketchy last night about the fate of residents of Diabali, large parts of which have been besieged and seized by Islamist fighters of Al-Qaeda in Maghreb, Mujao, Ansar-Dine and Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
Quinn calls upon all military forces to ensure the safety of civilian populations, and refrain from any actions that may jeopardise the ability of humanitarian actors to provide assistance or the ability of civilians to receive it.
Meanwhile, the US, France, UK, Norway and other western countries said last night that they were very worried about the fate of 40 western hostages taken by Islamist fighters in Algeria, where heavily armed Jihadists raided an oil facility and shot dead two oil workers, a British and an Algerian.
The Jihadists said the operation was in retaliation of Algeria’s decision to let France use its air space to attack their northern bases in Mali, Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. They want France to stop the operation immediately. But the government of Algeria said it will not back down, won’t negotiate and give in to what it calls to terrorists’ demands.
Photos by H. Caux/UNHCR. A family of Malian refugees.