31 March 2012

Civil War in Mali Heating Up

A major assault on the strategic Mali garrison town of Gao is putting pressure on government forces.

Tuareg rebels in Mali have attacked the strategic northern garrison town of Gao with heavy weapons, hours after another town, Kidal, fell to them.

Two army helicopters were scrambled in response, a local official told AFP news agency by phone.

Gao, with a population of 87,000, more than twice the size of Kidal, hosts one of the biggest garrisons in the north.

Separatist rebels seeking to carve out a desert homeland began a rebellion in the west African state in January.

A regional group, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), has placed on alert a peacekeeping force of 2,000 soldiers, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

After a coup by disgruntled military officers in Mali a week ago, Ecowas has threatened to close land borders, freeze assets and impose a financial blockade if the army does not stand aside before Monday.

The British government is telling Britons to leave the country.

Britons should leave Mali and those considering visiting the West African nation should stay away, Britain's foreign ministry said on Saturday.
A coup in Mali was triggered last week by anger at President Amadou Toumani Toure's handling of a rebellion in the north of the country which has continued to gain momentum since the military takeover.
"We advise against all travel to Mali," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said. "Given ongoing instability in the country, and now that the airport has re-opened, you should leave if you have no pressing need to remain."

By: Brant

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