Mali airline cancels flights to Timbuktu after shelling
Sky Mali on Monday announced the cancellation of flights to the ancient northern cities of Timbuktu and Gao after shells landed near Timbuktu’s airport, further isolating the remote region.
On the edge of the Sahara desert, Timbuktu has since August been under a blockade imposed by the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
Northern Mali has been under security pressure for several weeks, raising fears of a new escalation between various armed actors vying for regional control.
Three shells landed Monday morning around the airport’s perimeter, with two hitting the United Nations mission camp, a UN official said on condition of anonymity.
They left minor damage and no injuries, the source said.
An airport official also reported shelling on the camp, attributing it to jihadists.
Sandy Haidara, president of the Association of Timbuktu Nationals in Bamako, said the attack took place as Sky Mali checked in passengers.
The airline said on social media all flights servicing the two cities this week would be grounded as a “precaution”.
The jihadist blockade has obstructed road access to Timbuktu.
On Thursday, armed men attacked a boat that provided an important link between northern cities on the Niger River, killing dozens of civilians between Timbuktu and Gao.
Both cities frequently come under attack by jihadists but are also the scene of skirmishes between the Malian army and predominantly Tuareg former rebels who signed a ceasefire in 2014.
The latest attacks coincide with the withdrawal of the UN mission MINUSMA, which the ruling junta is pushing out after ten years of engagement in the Sahel country.
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