In hiding since the March 22 coup, Mali's President, Amadou Toumani Toure, officially resigned on Sunday. Toure's resignation allows the soldiers who ousted him to abide by a deal to restore civilian rule and hand power to the President of the National Assembly.
The latest U.S. travel warning followed the formal resignation of Mali's President; Americans are being advised against travel to the West African nation due to continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners. U.S. citizens already in country are being strongly urged to consider leaving temporarily.
The State Department advises although the main airport in the capital, Bamako, was open, the availability of future flights was unpredictable and depended on the overall security situation. Peace Corps volunteers have been evacuated from Mali and non-essential U.S. diplomatic personnel have been offered flights out due to ongoing political instability.
Mali's desert Tuaregs have proclaimed independence for what they call the state of Azawad on Friday, a secession bid swiftly rejected by its African neighbors and foreign capitals from Paris to Washington. The 54-state African Union rejected the independence call as "null and of no value whatsoever", urging the rest of the world to shun the secession bid. The U.S. State Department has rejected the MNLA independence call.
The coup leaders faced a setback on April 2, when the landlocked nation’s neighbors closed their borders to all non-humanitarian trade with Mali and froze its accounts in the regional bank
"This is really a bad joke," Toure Alassane, a 42-year-old native of Timbuktu said at a gathering of about 200 northerners, "It will never work. You don't just declare independence when people don't have food to eat and nothing is functioning in the north," he said. In the town of Kidal, one resident said control is not in the hands of the MNLA, it is in the hands of the Ansar Dine Islamist group which wants to impose sharia, Islamic law, across Mali. "Nothing goes without their say," the resident said.
Ansar Dine doesn't communicate much, theirs is not a media operation, but it's their black flag that now flies over the northern towns of Timbuktu and Gao.