Harare — Sky Mali, the sole commercial airline serving Timbuktu in the interior of Mali, has announced that it canceled travel there due to safety concerns, further isolating the northern city, which has been under a militant blockade for more than a month, Reuters reports.
Since a local al-Qaeda member shut off access by road and river in the middle of August, Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient trading hub on the edge of the Sahara desert, has experienced a lack of food and aid supplies.
Later, Sky Mali released a statement citing a security alert and said that all flights to and from Timbuktu had been suspended until further notice.
Since the city was freed from militants in 2013 following an uprising by French soldiers, it has been surrounded by bloodshed. Later, the militants reorganized and began to move from northern Mali to the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.
The blockage, according to the European Union’s announcement last week, has already reached several towns in the Timbuktu region, including Rharous, Niafounké, Goundam, Diré, Tonka, Ber, and Léré.
Mali’s military officials ordered French forces to leave, requested that United Nations peacekeepers leave, and linked up with Russian private military contractors Wagner Group, which has led to an increase in insecurity over the past year.
On Friday, an al Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a military base in northeastern Mali. The previous day, authorities had accused the group of carrying out a simultaneous attack on a second military camp and a boat that resulted in the deaths of over 60 people.