ICRC: Fighting in Northern Mali Displaces 30,000
The International Committee of the Red Cross says at least 30,000 people have been displaced in northern Mali, where Tuareg fighters have launched a renewed rebellion against the government.
A Red Cross official said Thursday people are fleeing northern Mali in "large numbers," and some are living in "dire conditions" with no shelter, food or access to water.
Tuareg rebels on Wednesday forced government soldiers to retreat from the town of Tin Zaouatene along the border with Algeria.
Tuareg rebels have clashed with government troops in several northern towns since launching their rebellion on January 17.
A team from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS traveled to Mali's capital, Bamako, on Thursday to assess the humanitarian situation in the north.
ECOWAS Communications Director Sonny Ugoh told VOA that his group hopes Mali's government will engage with the Tuareg rebels in order to resolve the crisis.
"It will be in the best interest of the sub-region, and Mali, for the insurgents to dialogue with the government of Mali," said Ugoh. "That way their concerns behind the rebellion will be addressed."
Tuareg rebels say they are seeking independence from the southern-based government, which they say has ignored Mali's impoverished northern desert region.
Hundreds of ethnic Tuaregs recently returned to northern Mali from Libya, where they fought alongside troops loyal to ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Tuareg nomads are present throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Both Mali and Niger have battled Tuareg uprisings in the last decade.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.