Report: Malian villagers caught in the crossfire
French air raids have pushed back an Islamist rebel advance in central Mali. But as a ground war approaches, residents are gripped with fear. FRANCE 24 reports from the town of Sévaré, French and Malian troops' northernmost outpost.
Islamist rebels advanced dangerously close to the central Malian town of Sévaré last week, before a French air offensive pushed them back towards their northern strongholds. Now an eerie calm has descended on the town, which has become the furthest government-controlled outpost in the region.
FRANCE 24 reporters in Sévaré have been prevented from travelling further north, where the Malian army is reportedly trading fire with well-equipped jihadist fighters in places like Konna, some 700km north of the capital, Bamako.
Malian soldiers have secured the strategic airport near Sévaré, but have been given orders to stop cameramen from filming there and refuse to answer questions.
Meanwhile, news of an impending ground offensive by French and Malian troops has spread, reaching isolated villages around the main town. “We learned that the jihadists took Konna, that they want to come as far as Sevare. Here, we are very worried, we're scared,” one village chief told FRANCE 24.
As Islamist militants fleeing French air raids seek refuge in Mali's isolated villages, French troops on the ground face a difficult task routing out the rebels while protecting the local population.