200,000 Flee Mali Fighting

AFP – Some 200,000 people have fled fighting in Mali, where widespread looting in key northern towns has also forced the UN food agency to suspend its activities, UN agencies said Tuesday.

“This 200,000 figure may rise,” warned a World Food Programme spokeswoman.

“Malian refugees have been crossing into Burkina Faso and Mauritania at an average rate of 400 people per day in the past week,” the UN refugee agency added.

About 107,000 people have also been displaced within Mali, where much of the north has fallen to Tuareg rebels since military rulers seized power in Bamako in a coup on March 22.

The World Food Programme said it has suspended its activities in the north’s Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu and the central town of Mopti, amid widespread looting after insurgents captured the northern towns.

“WFP staff have been staying at home,” said the UN food agency.

Earlier Tuesday, a French minister said the Tuareg rebels have been spotted near Mopti, and that the Malian army may be unable to stop their advance.

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