AQIM lays landmines around Gao
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its allies have planted mines around the embattled northern Mali city of Gao, AFP reported on Tuesday (July 3rd).
National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) spokesman Mossa Ag Attaher said that AQIM was "using the population as hostages, as a human shield to protect itself from an MNLA counter-attack".
"Many people are trying to escape, to take the bus to go to Bamako, but the Islamists are stopping them," the Touareg rebel group's representative added.
A west African source also confirmed that landmines had been planted around Gao "to prevent a possible attack by troops" from the west African regional bloc ECOWAS, as well as a possible counter-offensive from Touareg fighters.
AQIM and its offshoot MUJAO forced their former MNLA allies out of the city in deadly clashes last week.
Meanwhile, Ansar al-Din Islamists in Timbuktu destroyed seven tombs of ancient Muslim saints. A spokesman said Monday that they were acting in the name of God and would "destroy every mausoleum in the city, all of them, without exception".
In related news Monday, Burkinabe Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole announced that a mini-summit of West African leaders would be held in Ouagadougou on Saturday. The meeting will gather senior Malian political figures and other key figures to discuss moving toward a national unity government, Bassole said.
A high-level French delegation is also expected in Algiers on Wednesday, as part of international consultations on the situation in northern Mali, Tout sur l'Algerie reported.
Algeria mediated the 2006 Algiers Accord between the Malian government and Touareg rebels.
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