Mali: Dozens of civilians killed during Islamic State attack

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Dozens of civilians were killed in the north Yesfollowing an attack by jihadists who pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, who are expanding their reach, committing many atrocities, imgs in the region said.

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It was the first time Talatage, about 150 kilometers from Gao, had been attacked on such a scale by the group. Islamic state in the Great Sahara (ICMS). The city, located in a desert area, is at the edge of the influence of various armed organizations, which often clash.

ISIS fighters arrived on Tuesday and engaged in fierce fighting with members of the rival jihadist Organization for the Support of Islam and Muslims (WIM, affiliated to al-Qaida) and other organizations, including the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), in which the the dominant element is the Tuareg, the imgs told AFP.

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The situation in the field is confusing: information is difficult to get out of the remote zone, where communication is difficult and things are dangerous.

The casualty count varies depending on the img, but all of them spoke of dozens of dead civilians who they were either caught in the crossfire, or executed by jihadists.

UIM members, moving on motorbikes, were able to take control of the community after three hours of fierce fighting on Tuesday night, the imgs said.

A local elected official and an official of the KSA who spoke on condition of anonymity spoke yesterday Friday, the first about 45 dead civilians, the second about more than 30. They also reported that houses and a market were set on fire.

A member of a humanitarian aid organization spoke of several dozen dead civilians.

The local elected official as well as the KSA executive talked about folding UIM, at least partially. “Right now we control most of the city, UIM another part,” said the KSA official.

Members of the Movement to Save Azawad “gathered intelligence and bodies,” he added.

“What worries us is the humanitarian situation, the residents have been abandoned to their fate”the local elected official emphasized for his part.

“The situation is very difficult, according to eyewitnesses”said a member of a humanitarian organization operating in the area.

A collective of women who hail from the community but are based in Gao made an “urgent appeal” to offer “assistance” to residents following the massacre.

Talatage had about 13,000 permanent residents in 2009, when Mali’s last population census was conducted.

UIM is considered to have great influence in the region, which is mainly inhabited by Tuareg nomads.

Other armed groups that signed a peace deal with the state in 2015 after fighting it for years, notably the KSA, are also present in the city.

In the vast region of Gao and Menaka, further east, fighting between jihadist organizations or between jihadists and members of other armed groups, mainly Tuareg tribesmen, has been raging for months.

The state has a very weak presence in the region and the inhabitants, mainly nomads who live in camps scattered in the desert, find themselves in the crossfire, falling victim to massacres or reprisals because they are accused of collaborating with the—any—enemy.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands more displaced.

The Malian government said it carried out “offensive reconnaissance” from the air in Talatage. The head of the army’s communications directorate, Colonel Suleiman Dembele, assured the press on Friday that the report that the town had been captured by WIM jihadists was “fake news”.

IKMS, born when other jihadist groups split in 2015, has flourished in recent years in the border region of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The group, which recruits members from nomadic tribes historically marginalized by the central state, is believed to be responsible for several massacres of civilians, notably in Seitenga, Burkina Faso, where at least 86 people were killed in June.

Source: News Beast

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