AFRICA/MALI - Islamic extremists advance towards the south while they appear radical preachers in Bamako

Bamako (Agenzia Fides) - "The occupation of the city of Douentza worries the authorities in Bamako" says to Fides Father Edmond Dembele, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mali. The city of Douentza was captured by the Movement for Uniqueness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), one of the Islamist movements that occupy the north of Mali, removing it from the control of a local militia. "The capture on behalf of the MUJAO of Douentza is important because it is the first town one encounters on the road to the north, after Mopti. So far it was in a buffer zone between the areas controlled by the Islamists and those in the hands of regular forces, " explains the priest. "The other news that is holding the stage in Mali is the murder of a member of the Algerian consulate in Gao, for weeks in the hands of extremists. The news has not yet been officially confirmed, but it seems real," says Fr. Dembele. "In the face of these events, one wonders what will the reaction of the Government of Mali be. A few days ago, talking to a journalist who had been beaten in Goa by men of the MUJAO, the Prime Minister had declared that the army is preparing to retake the north, but when and how is unknown." The initiative currently seems to be in the hands of Islamic extremists. "For the moment a military advance of armed groups who control the north does not seem possible towards Bamako, but at an ideological and propaganda level, there are ominous signs. In some mosques in Bamako, for example, extremist preachers who have staged rallies have appeared and the local populations have not appreciated," says Fr. Dembele. The people fleeing from the chaos in the north are facing the heavy rains that hit Mali, and that caused flooding in some areas. "The rains aggravate an already compromised food crisis, because it promotes the spread of cholera. The infectious conditions are more disturbing in the north, though the south have reported outbreaks of cholera. The humanitarian situation remains worrisome," concluded Fr. Dembele. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 03/09/2012)