At least two people have been killed and five wounded in the besieged city of Timbuktu, Mali, a month and a half into a blockade by fighters. The attacks in northern Mali have more than doubled since United Nations peacekeepers completed the first phase of their withdrawal last month after a decade of fighting armed groups. Tens of thousands of people are facing extreme poverty and struggle to survive due to their complete isolation from the world. The al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) declared “war in the Timbuktu region” in August, warning supply trucks from neighboring regions not to enter the city.
Fighters have extended their hold over rural areas around better-defended towns in northern Mali, aiming to increase pressure on the central government. The UN has issued a warning of a potential humanitarian crisis if the current situation in Timbuktu persists. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has registered more than 33,000 people who have fled the Timbuktu and Taoudeni regions in northern Mali, heading for Mauritania and Algeria to escape the violence.