Fri. Dec 8th, 2023

Two people have been killed and five others injured after shells were fired on the historic northern Malian city of Timbuktu, the army says.

The military blamed what it called “terrorists” for the shelling.

Timbuktu, a UN-designated World Heritage Site, has been under siege in recent weeks by jihadists, reportedly leading to acute food shortages.

Back in 2012, it was captured by Islamist and Tuareg fighters, who were eventually ousted by French forces.

However, the jihadists continued to stage attacks from their bases further north in the Sahara Desert.

The insurgency was the main reason Mali’s military seized power in 2020, accusing the civilian government of failing to provide security.

It pledged to end the militant attacks but in recent months it appears they have been on the increase.

In one of the bloodiest incidents, 49 people died when a river boat in the north-east of the country was ambushed a fortnight ago.

The UN peacekeeping force, which has been in the country since 2013, is pulling out at the request of the military government.

Last year, France withdrew its forces as the authorities brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group.

Thursday’s attack on Timbuktu, a seat of Islamic learning home to tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, caused panic among residents, local media report.

On the same day the army said it had foiled an attack on Léré town, 240km (150 miles) south-west of Timbuktu, killing five militants.

On Sunday, five soldiers were killed after two military camps were raided by ethnic Tuareg rebels.

An alliance of Tuareg groups that re-launched a rebellion last month said it had captured two bases from the Malian army in Sunday’s fighting.

The Tuareg rebels, who want independence for northern Mali, are opposed to the army taking control of bases vacated by departing UN troops in the area. They also accuse the junta of reneging on the 2015 Algiers peace deal that ended their previous rebellion.

The Islamist insurgents have spread from northern Mali and also operate in neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

The insecurity has led the army in all three countries to seize power but the jihadist insurgency has continued.

By Joy

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