The Ménaka region has become “the priority target” for

In northeastern Mali, the town of Ménaka is under increasing pressure from terrorists from the Islamic State group. This has been the case for several months throughout the region, which lies in the “three borders” zone, but in recent days the noose has been dangerously tightened on the city itself. On Thursday 18 August, an uncertain calm prevailed at the site.

On August 12, twenty civilians were killed in Esseylel, less than 20 kilometers from Ménaka. Three days later, on Monday the 15th, Islamic State fighters on motorcycles stole cattle at the city’s gates, creating a movement of panic: the governor and several civil administrators took refuge in the military camp and spent the night there. .

Worrying situation Since then the situation has calmed down, the representatives of the Malian state have returned to their offices and an official public ceremony even took place on Wednesday 17 August. But the situation is still more than worrying: since March, according to sources, between 300 and 700 civilians have been murdered in the region by the Islamic State group, which, according to the UN, controls three quarters of it. “They made Ménaka their priority target,” confirms a leader of a local armed group.

In Ménaka, the Gatia-MSA coalition is present, armed groups that have signed the peace agreement and Bamako’s allies, Minusma’s peacekeeping forces and the Malian army – which did not respond to AXADLE requests -; Thus than its Russian auxiliaries. The latter would currently be from 20 to 50 men who sometimes, but rarely, leave their camp, according to several local sources.

Several Malian security sources say they do not believe in an immediate offensive against the city. That jihadists who remain present around Ménaka would ride about twenty or thirty motorcycles – the motorcycles carry two armed men, most of the time. During the most massive offensives of recent months, there were several hundred.

“Big battles” “A new group of fighters affiliated with IS and based in the Andéramboukane sector is getting stronger, explains one of these sources, because at the moment they are stealing cattle to sell it on, finance themselves and grow. But there must big matches are expected.

According to the UN, more than 50,000 displaced people have taken refuge in the city, which is “full to the brim”, said a Ménaka notable concerned about the humanitarian situation. And who concludes: “I hope that the leaders in Bamako have finally taken stock of what is happening here”.

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