U.N. Refugee Agency Warns of Crisis in Mali

Nick Cumming-Bruce
The New York Times

GENEVA — As French and African troops escalated their offensive against Islamist forces in the north of Mali on Friday, the United Nations refugee agency said it was preparing for around 700,000 people to flee the violence, many to neighboring countries.

The United Nations believes that more than 400,000 refugees could flee to neighboring countries and that 300,000 more are likely to be displaced internally in the next few months, said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.

These will be in addition to around 376,000 who have fled the turmoil in the past year, she said, including 147,000 who went to Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso and 229,000 the Malian government estimates are displaced within the country.

Malians arriving in neighboring countries since the start of French airstrikes a week ago said they feared the strict application of Muslim Shariah law by Islamist rebels. They have given accounts of executions and amputations and reported that children as young as 10 had been recruited to join the rebel groups.

Some families handed over children to the rebels for religious reasons, but the parents of most of the children were attracted by promised payments of around $700, according to a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council detailing serious abuses, including executions, torture and rape committed by armed groups in northern Mali. It also reported similar atrocities in areas under the control of the Malian Army…

The article continues at The New York Times.

H/T David Burge (@iowahawkblog) who also pointed out this from October 2012:

Despite Romney Claims, Mali Is No Afghanistan, Expert Says

Many in the West believe the arid Sahel region of north Mali will “become the new Afghanistan,” according to an Associated Press report this week.

At the presidential debate on Monday, neither candidate discussed much about America’s longest war, aside from stressing the importance of thanking U.S. troops and bringing them home. But Mitt Romney singled out Mali as the new hotspot for al Qaeda activity…

Read the whole thing.

Related: Africa Must Take Lead in Mali, France Says

Algeria: 32 militants killed, with 23 hostages


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