Malians flee Tuareg rebellion to Niger

2012-02-01 22:33

Niamey - Around a thousand Malians, including 30 members of the military, have crossed the border into Niger in recent days to flee fighting between government troops and Tuareg rebels, the UN said on Wednesday.

"Around a thousand people fleeing the violence in northern Mali have sought refuge in Tillaberi, a border region in western Niger," the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

OCHA said among them were around 30 Malian soldiers and a security official from the town of Aderboukane. More than 1 000 civilians are now scattered in several Nigerien border villages.

In mid-January, Tuareg rebels from the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) launched a military offensive against several towns in northern Mali, sparking clashes that have already killed dozens on either side.

Another thousand civilians have fled the area in the other direction to seek refuge in neighbouring Mauritania.

Niger has grappled with its own Tuareg rebellions in the past and has voiced concern over the risk of contagion from Mali, where many of the rebels recently returned from Libya, where they fought alongside Moamer Kadhafi loyalists.

Bamako accuses the recently formed MNLA of links with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, whose campaign of attacks and kidnappings have dealt a blow to foreign tourism and investment in the region.

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