Hundreds Flee for Algeria as Mali War Intensifies

Article Summary
Hundreds of families are believed to be attempting to enter Algeria from Mali as the French military campaign against Islamist militants intensifies, writes N. Soko.

The repercussions of the war raging in northern Mali have begun to show in the Algerian border areas.  Hundreds of Malian families are preparing to enter Algeria, fleeing the clashes that have been raging for days on the demarcation line between Timaouine and al-Khalil. Moreover, signs of a social crisis have begun to surface, as there has been a marked decrease in trade after the closure of the border with Mali. This is further proof that the coming days will be harsher on the people of these areas.

The terrorist attack on the oil facility over the weekend in Ain Omnas spurred the provinces of Tamanrasset and Adrar into declaring a state of emergency. Tight security measures have been taken in Tamanrasset. Security checkpoints have been positioned at the entrances and exits of the city and vehicles have been thoroughly searched.

Our car has been inspected at five checkpoints on the route from Tamanrasset to Silet, an estimated distance of 140 km [about 87 miles]. Our car was also checked by the army at the entrance to the town of Silet.

Furthermore, some places, such as Tamanrasset airport, have increased their security measures in case of an emergency. Meanwhile, Algerian warplanes have been flying over the border area of Tamanrasset, patrolling the border towns of Timaouine and Tin Zaoutaine.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, at around 8 a.m., we were about 10 km [6.2 miles] from Bordj Badji Mokhtar when we saw Algerian warplanes patrolling the area. The route linking Tamanrasset to Bordj Badji Mokhtar, which travels through 540 km [335 miles] of desert, was completely deserted from nightfall until the early hours of the morning. This confirms that many citizens do not feel safe using this road, despite the reassurance on the part of security sources confirming that the road is safe during the night.

Overall, we found that the war that broke out in the region of northern Mali has begun to cast its shadow on the border areas stretching from Tin Zaoutaine to Bordj Badji Mokhtar, especially following the French aerial assault on the positions of the Jihad and Tawhid Brigades and other positions of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has controlled the northern cities for nearly a year.

Dozens if not hundreds of families who have fled the war in Mali are preparing to enter Algeria, according to officials from the Timiaouine municipality in central Algeria, near the border with Mali. They have been at the border points with Timiaouine for nearly 20 days, as they have not been allowed to enter yet, especially after the announcement by the Algerian authorities that the border was officially closed with Mali. Meanwhile, other official sources said that some of the families that came from the city of Aqlhok with their cattle were allowed to enter Timiaouine three days ago.

This raises questions about the reason some families are being allowed into the country while others are not. Unknown sources have said that families without sufficient identification documents will not be allowed to enter, whatever their status.

Hundreds of families are still in al-Khalil, Mali, which is 18 km [11 miles] from Bordj Badji Mokhtar. They have been waiting for about a month, in the hope that the Algerian authorities will allow them to enter the country, especially considering that they have come from the cities of Tsalit, Mopti and Gao, which have been bombed by the French Army.

As a result of this, hundreds of families have fled the war, traveled hundreds of kilometers and have not yet reached the Algerian border due to lack of transportation. Transportation, food and unemployment are the new issues that will be soon weighing down on the people fleeing from the hell of war, as well as on the Algerians living in Tamanrasset and Adrar, who have found themselves in an unprecedented crisis after the closure of the border.

Meanwhile, trucks coming from Tamanrasset, Adrar, Rafan and Bordj Badji Mokhtar, laden with goods to be marketed in Mali, have stopped their activity. In addition, the border has been reportedly closed with Niger, as witnesses say that the trucks laden with goods destined for Niger have not been allowed to enter, and are returning to where they came from daily.

Found in: malian crisis, french intervention mali, algeria

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