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At least 63,000 refugees arrived in Mauritania after fleeing clashes in neighboring Mali between Touareg rebels and government forces, the United Nations World Food Programme said.
“More than 300 Malians continue to cross the border every day towards Mauritania, which hosts the largest number of Malian refugees among countries affected in the region, including Niger and Burkina Faso,” the Rome-based agency said in an e-mailed statement today.
The rebel Azawad National Liberation Movement began an uprising in January to demand autonomous rule for Mali’s northern region, including the historic trading city of Timbuktu. The group declared independence in northern Mali on April 6, taking advantage of political instability sparked by the ouster of President Amadou Toumani Touré on March 22 by army officers unhappy with the way the government was handling the Touareg rebellion.
The refugees are fleeing the conflict amid a food and nutritional crisis in the Sahel region that has affected countries including Mauritania, the WFP said.
“The Mauritanian region where the Malian refugees are is the most affected by the food insecurity,” it said.
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