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Canadians warned to leave Mali

Malian soldiers stand guard at the international airport of Bamako March 29, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS/Luc Gnago

QMI AGENCY

Canadians in Mali should leave the country immediately, Ottawa warned Friday.

The advisory came in the wake of last week's military coup in the west African state.

The unrest in Africa's third largest gold-producer has been fuelled by weapons brought out of Libya during last year's conflict, and risks creating a vast new lawless zone in the Saharan desert that Islamists and criminals could exploit.

"Armed groups are present in the regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal, as well as to areas bordering these regions, and there is a threat of banditry and kidnapping, even in big cities," Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada says on its website. "There is a very high risk of kidnapping in these regions, and Westerners are a favourite target."

On Friday, Canada voted to suspend Mali from the International Organization for La Francophonie.

"Canada forcefully argued for this suspension," a government release stated. "The perpetrators of the coup d'état in Mali need to be sent a clear message, that democracy, constitutional order and stability must be restored in Mali.

"We are deeply concerned by events in the north, where rebel groups, including those affiliated with terrorist organizations, have been making gains. This is causing great suffering and insecurity for the people of northern Mali."

Last week, Canada announced it was suspending aid programs involving direct payments to Mali. But, it added that Canadian International Development Agency programs, including those that deliver humanitarian assistance directly to the people of Mali, through international and local non-governmental organizations, would continue.

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