Caritas Mali says its local office in Gao in northern Mali was destroyed along with the local church after Tuareg rebels seized the city at the weekend.
Despite the conflict in the north and a coup last month, Caritas Mali says its operations providing desperately needed food aid to the rest of the country continue.
The Tuareg rebels have seized three regional capitals in as many days. The main rebel group is the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). They are operating alongside the Islamist group Ansar Edine, who have links to Al Qaeda’s north African branch.
Fr Jean-Jacques, director of Caritas Gao said, “Caritas staff fled Gao on Saturday. We learned from our guard today that the centre and the church compound have been destroyed.
“We have received calls from the small Catholic community left in Gao. They are now in hiding, fearing for their lives.”
Fr Jean-Jacques says there are about 200 Catholics in Gao
The capital of Mali is calm. “All is normal here in Bamako,” said Théodore Togo, the Secretary General of Caritas Mali.”We are monitoring the situation in the north. Apart from in Gao and in Mopti temporally, our programme continues in assisting people affected by the food crisis.”
Caritas Mali is distributing corn, millet, rice and sorghum, as well as seeds to over 100,000 people affected by a growing food crisis.
“If the rebels limit their activities to the north, then the majority of our aid programmes will be able to continue as planned,” said Théodore Togo.
A coup last month toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure, adding further insecurity to volatile situation in Mali.
Caritas members in Niger are also providing food aid to refugees who have fled the conflict in northern Mali.
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