GENEVA (AP) — Military clashes in northern Mali are adding to the already enormous numbers of people who have fled its recent conflicts, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.
Agency spokesman Adrian Edwards said 1,230 refugees from Mali arrived in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania during the past week as a result of the clashes between the French-backed Malian army and al-Qaida linked Islamist groups.
Edwards said that the situation inside Mali is less clear, where the agency estimates there are hundreds, and possibly thousands, who have fled the recent escalation in fighting with French forces taking on Mali's rebels in the northern territories. However, U.N.'s deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said Monday that at least 30,000 people have been displaced inside Mali by the fighting since the insurgents began moving south last week.
In 2012, there were about 200,000 people who fled their homes in northern Mali and became displaced within the country while 144,500 Malians fled to neighboring countries, Edwards said. French troops have joined the fight in Mali, bombing the rebels in an attempt to stop their advance toward the country's capital, Bamako.
"We're clearly seeing populations being displaced by the fighting," Edwards told The Associated Press. "In neighboring countries, refugee numbers are still in the hundreds — they're fleeing fighting, imposition of Sharia law, and just the simple absence of any services or basic support to live."