Mali clashes claim 35
Bamako – At least 35 people died in clashes this week between Islamists and Tuareg rebels in the north Mali town of Gao, according to a new toll released on Saturday by a medical source.
“There were at least 35 dead,” in the fighting, a doctor told AFP after returning to the capital Bamako from the city.
An earlier toll released after Islamists claimed control of the key town in Mali’s occupied north on Wednesday following fierce clashes with Tuareg rebels said at least 20 people were dead.
The doctor said the new toll included “those who died in the river Niger and the wounded who died afterwards”.
The al-Qaeda offshoot Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) began fighting on Wednesday as tensions erupted between the two armed groups which seized the town in March.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said 41 people had been hospitalised in Gao with bullet wounds after “street demonstrations and fighting between armed groups” on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The MNLA said in a statement on Friday it had suffered four dead and 10 wounded, while it had killed “dozens” of MUJAO fighters.
While the armed groups both seized the main cities of northern Mali in an often unclear and uneasy relationship, the Islamists have taken the upper hand, enforcing strict sharia law which has angered local moderate Muslims.
However the MNLA has remained present, pressing their demand for a secular breakaway state for their traditional homeland which covers the vast north of the bowtie-shaped nation.
The Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), which is backed by MUJAO and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is only interested in a state run under Islamic law.