The airline Sky Mali announced Monday to cancel its weekly flights to and from Timbuktu and Gao, in the north of the country, following an attack in the perimeter of Timbuktu airport.
The cancellation of these flights further reinforces the isolation of Gao and Timbuktu. Timbuktu in particular has been under a blockade since August imposed by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), a jihadist alliance affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
But the entire north has been under security pressure for several weeks, raising fears of a new escalation between the multitude of armed actors who operate in this region affected by jihadism and banditry and who are vying for control of the territory.
Three shells fell Monday morning in the perimeter of the airport, including two on the camp of the UN mission (MINUSMA) which is located on the right-of-way, said a MINUSMA official under cover of anonymity. There was minor damage and no injuries, he added. An airport source also reported shelling on the MINUSMA camp, which it attributed to jihadists.
Sandy Haïdara, president of the association of nationals of Timbuktu in Bamako, indicated that the attack took place when Sky Mali was checking in passengers. Sky Mali indicated on social networks that it was canceling “as a precautionary measure” all flights scheduled for this week to and from Timbuktu and Gao, another large city it serves in the north.
The jihadist blockade is already hampering the supply of Timbuktu by road, local actors report. An attack attributed to jihadists against a boat providing an important link between northern cities on the Niger River killed dozens of civilians Thursday between Timbuktu and Gao.
The regions of Gao and Timbuktu are the scene of a succession of jihadist attacks, but also of skirmishes involving the Malian army and predominantly Tuareg armed groups who signed a ceasefire in 2014.
These events coincide with the ongoing disengagement of the UN mission, pushed towards the exit after ten years of presence by the junta in power since 2020.