The town of Konna in central Mali was seized yesterday afternoon by Islamist fighters of Ansar-Dine (defenders of Islam), Mujao (Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest), Al-Qaida in Maghreb (AQIM) and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, after intense and deadly battles with the Malian army, according to reports from the capital city Bamako.
Eye-witnesses and military sources say the Islamists rebels have now set their sights on Sévaré, a town located 15 km of the fallen city of Konna, and might also target Mopti, a much bigger town lying 70 km of Konna. Mopti has a population of about 100 000 inhabitants, while Sévaré, which houses a major airfield and a military base controlled by the army, has 40 000.
The Islamists’ aim is to advance to the capital, take the whole country and impose Sharia law, analysts said.
“Petrol stations are full of vehicles waiting to purchase fuel to leave the town,” one resident told Radio France Internationale by telephone from Konna.“ All the owners of hotels are closing down and packing their stuff to trek southward,” the resident said, adding that hotels have become targets number one of Islamists keen to apply Sharia in Mali.
Meanwhile, France has called for an international African force to be deployed as soon as possible.
*Photo by Associated Press. Ansar-Dine fighters.