BAMAKO Jan 13 Hundreds of Malians lined up on
Sunday to donate blood destined for their troops locked in a
fierce battle against Islamist rebels occupying the northern
two-thirds of the poor West African country.
Faced with a long and bitter war to dislodge the al
Qaeda-linked rebel fighters, interim President Dioncounda Traore
had appealed on Friday for everyone, including mining and
telecoms firms, to contribute whatever they could.
With little else to offer, many Malians in the dusty capital
Bamako waited quietly to give their blood.
"Mali is under attack, and we are obliged to defend
ourselves," said 32-year-old civil servant Ibrahima Kalossi.
"Since I don't have any kind of military training, the only
thing I can do is contribute financially or donate my blood."
Kalossi was one of more than 40 civilians and reservists who
queued early on Sunday at one of several blood donation centres
in downtown Bamako.
Many in the moderate Muslim nation feel strongly about
wresting the north from the Islamist alliance, which has imposed
extreme sharia Islamic law including cases of amputation of
hands for theft and stoning to death for adultery.
"This is all I can give to help save the men at the front,"
said 23-year-old Benidian Sidibe, wearing a headscarf.
Commandant Arouna Dougnon, 52, in charge of the centre, said
over 1,000 Malians had donated blood across the capital since
they began collection on Saturday.
"We collected 180 packets of blood from this centre alone
yesterday. It will continue every day until the country is
liberated," he said.
Dougnon said he hoped to get all of Mali's 6,638 reservist
to donate blood regularly.
Backed by French aerial firepower, Malian troops took back
the strategic town of Konna in the centre of the country on
Saturday after Islamist rebels seized the city in a southern
Malian authorities said 11 soldiers were killed during the
battle in Konna, while about 60 others were wounded. French
fighter jets struck Islamist training camps and logistics depots
in their northern stronghold of Gao on Sunday.
A youth organisation called Demisenw Joyoro has said it
would lend its support to raise 100 million CFA francs
($203,500) and collect 100,000 packets of blood for the troops
over the next four months.
An official of the country's influential High Islamic
Council, Mohamed Kimbiri, said the organisation had raised 20
million CFA francs that would be handed to President Traore on