UNHCR: Mali refugees could top 1 million

Jan. 19, 2013 at 2:21 PM

BAMAKO, Mali, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Another 700,000 people could be displaced by the fighting in Mali over the next several months, bringing the total to more than 1 million, U.N. officials said.

Nearly 375,000 people have already been uprooted inside Mali and neighboring countries, Voice of America reported Saturday.

About 3,000 people a day are fleeing the fighting and the region occupied by Islamist militants, said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Many are leaving because they fear the strict application of Sharia law, Fleming said.

Refugees report witnessing "executions, amputations and they say that also large amounts of money are being offered to civilians to fight against the Malian army and its supporters," she said.

Children have been seen among the rebel fighters, Fleming said, while other refugees claim family members have disappeared.

People are being offered transportation out of the country at fees exceeding a month's wages, she said, while some people are waiting to flee because they hope the fight against the militants will be quickly concluded.

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