BAMAKO, Mali, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- David Gressly, a special envoy with the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Mali, said the situation in the country remains "extremely volatile."
"This is the most challenging situation Mali has ever experienced," he told the United Nations' Integrated Regional Information Networks in an interview published Thursday. "In the previously rebel-controlled [northern] areas, the situation is extremely volatile."
The U.N. mission estimates about 500,000 Malians were displaced by conflict and 1.3 million people depend on food assistance.
Mali called for military support from former colonial power France to help fight al-Qaida and nomadic fighters that took control over the north of the country following a coup in 2012.
Attaher Maiga, a staff member with the International Committee of the Red Cross, told IRIN his was one of the few aid groups able to operate throughout the country.
Radio France Internationale journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were found dead in Kidal, a city near the Algerian border, by French troops earlier this month. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb took responsibility for the slayings.