“Daily activities have resumed regularly, stores are open and there are cars on the streets. Gunfire hasn’t been heard since yesterday afternoon: the Islamists defeated the Tuareg and took over the local administration”, said to MISNA a representative of a Malian human rights group in Gao, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“The rivalry between the two groups – The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Ansar Din allied with the Mujao – was increasingly evident. The people are almost relieved that one won over the other, in the hope to not be caught in the middle of another struggle for control of the territory”, continued the activist, on return from the hospital where he verified the still uncertain toll of yesterday’s fighting.
“I saw nine bodies with my own eyes, two of which children who were shot dead. The other seven were Tuareg. The most accredited toll is of 25 dead and various injured who were hospitalized”, added the MISNA source. The situation however remains uncertain, “as it is unclear in which direction the Tuareg fled” or whether the movement is still “operative”. According to some sources, though difficult to verify independently, the MNLA secretary general Bilal Ag Acherif was injured and transferred to Burkina Faso.
The crisis in northern Mali, which could lead to a military intervention by Bamako troops and possibly a regional contingent, tomorrow will be the focus of the 41st summit of Heads of State and government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to be held in Yamoussoukro, administrative capital of the Ivory Coast.
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, who held talks with the Tuareg rebels and members of Ansar al Din, will brief his counterparts on the situation in the northern regions and the most appropriate diplomatic solution. The European Union representative in Bamako, Bertrand Soret, stressed that the resumption of aid will only be possible with a full return to constitutional order and taking back the North. This position means that it will be difficult that in 2012 the country receive the annual 30 million Euro foreseen by the five year European Development Fund (FED).
The transition government headed by Cheick Modibo Diarra in the capital is focused on the creation of a new military structure: the Military monitoring committee for the reform of the defence and security forces, which should replace the National Council for a return to democracy and State (CNRDRE). If the government approved bill is passed in parliament, the new structure will be headed by a military officer appointed by decree.