Fighters of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and allied Islamist factions pushed Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) out of their last foothold in northern Mali, the town of Ansogo, about 100 kilometers north of Gao, on July 12. For the first time since the rebellion pushed Malian government forces out of Azawad in April, the entire region is now completely in Islamist hands. The remaining MNLA fighters are believed to have fled into Niger. Islamist militants have surrounded Gao with landmines, making it almost impossible to enter. But Britain’s Guardian newspaper says it has obtained film footage depicting foreign Islamists patrolling Gao, dragging the bodies of senior Tuareg insurgents through the town behind pick-up trucks and conducting public whippings of three young people for “offenses” under sharia law, including smoking and having sex outside marriage.
Residents of Goundam, just west of Timbuktu, told AP by telephone that Ansar Dine militants went from door to door to arrest participants in a protest that was held against them. Some 90 suspected protesters were then publicly whipped, the reports said. The protest was reportedly sparked after an incident in which Ansar Dine militants detained a woman carrying a baby, and whipped her for not wearing an adequate face-veil—causing the baby to fall and die. The entire affair was dismissed as a lie by an Ansar Dine spokesman.
On July 11, army chiefs from Mali, Algeria, Niger and host country Mauritania met in the capital Nouakchott to weigh coordinated military action to take back northern Mali. In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius meanwhile said that his country is considering military intervention in Mali. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) requested authority for military action from the UN Security Council last month. The Security Council on July 5 approved a French-drafted resolution that said the council “expresses its readiness to further examine the request of ECOWAS once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment.”
Due to fighting in the north and drought throughout the country, more than 340,000 Malians have fled their homes so far this year. About half are displaced within Mali, and the rest have fled to Mauritania and other neighboring countries. (AP, July 14; The Guardian, Magharebia, July 13 via Eurasia Review; AFP, Link TV, July 12; IRIN, July 11 via AllAfrica, Reuters, July 5)
See our last post on the struggle in Mali.