For several days now, the city of Ménaka has witnessed a massive influx of displaced individuals, numbering in the thousands. Every day, since the beginning of last week, people have been arriving from the locality of Anderamboucane in northeastern Mali, near the border with Niger. Families are fleeing the violence of the Islamic State in the Sahel (ISIS) that controls the area, as well as the bombings by the Malian army.
Arriving in large trucks since last Tuesday, the majority of those displaced are women and children. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 2500 people have already reached Ménaka. Others, numbering in the hundreds, have reportedly chosen to cross the Nigerien border towards Chinagodar and Abala. “Deprived of shelter, food, and water, these displaced individuals need protection and await humanitarian assistance,” warns Mohamed Askia Touré, the UNHCR representative in Mali.
All these displaced individuals hail from Anderamboucane. In March of last year, ISIS jihadists launched a vast offensive throughout the Ménaka region, resulting in over a thousand deaths, according to local community sources, during horrifying massacres. Anderamboucane, ravaged, was emptied of its inhabitants, becoming a ghost town. Gradually, however, families attempted to rebuild their lives under the control of ISIS jihadists.
However, in recent weeks, the Malian and Nigerien armies have been conducting counter-terrorism operations, including airstrikes, on both sides of the border, as confirmed by various local civilian and security sources to RFI.
The displaced, who endured the rule of jihadists for over a year, arrive in Ménaka having lost everything once again. They are being taken care of by the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), a local armed group allied with the Malian government, and the national gendarmerie. These entities are working to identify and “screen” the new arrivals, as their immense distress does not exclude suspicions that jihadists may be among them seeking entry to Ménaka.