BAMAKO, Mali, April 17 (UPI) -- Responding with humanitarian assistance in northern Mali is extremely challenging given the security situation, Red Cross officials said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and Mali Red Cross said they were assessing the situation in northern Mali following the recent coup and rebellion.
"Humanitarian work in northern Mali is a major challenge in the current climate," Jurg Eglin, head of the ICRC delegation in Mali and Niger, said in a statement. "Violence and looting have severely hampered the operations of a number of agencies."
Dioncounda Traore was sworn in as interim president last week, nearly three weeks after a coup forced Amadou Toumani Toure from power.
Several allies of the president, including former Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe, were arrested by military forces, the BBC reports.
An EU delegation in Mali called for "an urgent clarification and their immediate release." The BBC adds the arrests suggest Traore doesn't have complete authority.
Rebels in the north of declared autonomy for a region they call Azawad during the security vacuum that developed after the coup.
"We're helping on a limited scale where we ascertain specific needs," said Eglin. "This is a first step for the ICRC in this new and confusing environment.