MALI’S military has airdropped food into a village in the centre of the country where more than 2,000 residents have been besieged by suspected Islamist militants for the past two weeks.
The situation in Farabougou, most of whose population is ethnic Bambara, has again underscored the government’s difficulties imposing its authority in a part of the country where jihadists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are gaining strength.
The siege began two weeks ago when the militants, who have generally sided with Fulani herders in their conflicts with farming communities like the Bambara, kidnapped several villagers and clashed with local hunters.
Malian troops have not been able to reach Farabougou by land because heavy rains have made the roads impassable, a local resident said.
In a statement, Mali’s armed forces said a transport plane had “conducted a significant humanitarian action” on Monday and Tuesday by dropping a cargo of basic necessities in Farabougou.
But a resident of a neighbouring village, who asked not to be named, said the supplies of grains and cooking oil were insufficient to meet the population’s needs.
“It’s the status quo. The village is still under siege. No one goes in or out,” he said.
Central Mali has emerged over the past few years as the epicentre of Islamist and inter-ethnic violence in the country, part of a wider deterioration of security across West Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region.
The insecurity was one of the driving factors behind a military coup on August 18 that overthrew then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.