GENEVA, Switzerland, March 22 (UPI) -- Hundreds of tons of relief supplies were on their way to tens of thousands of Malians caught up in regional fighting, a U.N. official said.
Fighting in Mali attributed to Tuareg rebels erupted in January when they returned from fighting alongside forces loyal to former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The simmering conflict, after years of peace, rekindled ethnic tensions between northern and southern Malians.
The ICRC said initially an estimated 30,000 people were displaced. At least twice that many left their homes because of recent fighting.
Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said hundreds of tons of relief supplies were en route to the region.
"Refugees in neighboring countries and internally displaced persons in Mali have told our teams that they are willing to return to their homes but only when peace is restored," he added.
Last week, the U.S. State Department warned of a threat of attacks and kidnapping of Westerners traveling in and around Mali. The warning stated that armed groups in the region are engaged in ongoing battles with the Malian military.
"The conflict has sparked civil disturbances and attacks against ethnic minority groups in Bamako and other cities in the south," the warning read.