Over 1 500 Malians flee Tuareg conflict

More than 1 500 Malians fleeing a Tuareg rebellion in the north and reprisal attacks in Bamako have found refuge in neighbouring Burkina Faso, a security official said on Monday.

“We have more than 1 500 Malians who have found refuge inside our borders,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“There are those who are fleeing the fighting in the north and those fleeing the abuses committed in Bamako,” he said, adding that deserting soldiers and paramilitary forces were also among the refugees.

He said that the refugees had come to the capital Ouagadougou and to the country’s second city of Bobo Dioulasso, 365km to the west.

The Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and other Tuareg rebels seeking more autonomy launched a major offensive in north Mali on January 17, sparking clashes that have killed dozens on both sides.

Retaliatory mob attacks in Bamako mainly targeting property owned by Tuaregs — a nomadic tribe of Berber origin — and other light-skinned communities such as Arabs and Mauritanians have also been reported.

Military sources in Ouagadougou said the air force had deployed two helicopters to monitor the country’s northern border with Mali.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, about 10 000 Malians have also crossed into Niger and officials said last week another 4 500 had found refuge in Mauritania. — AFP

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