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Red Cross starts aid effort in northern Mali

Monday - 7/16/2012, 8:59am  ET

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - The Red Cross says it has started an aid operation to bring emergency food supplies to some 160,000 people in northern Mali affected by drought and fighting between radical Islamists, rebels and the government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday "people in the north are no longer able to meet their basic food needs" following a poor 2011 crop season and the political conflict.

It says it will hand out rice, semolina and beans to the most vulnerable, and seeds will be distributed to some 40,000 farmers to boost food production.

After a coup ousted Mali's government in March, Tuareg rebels took control of the north but have been driven out by Islamist rebels who want to impose Shariah law. An estimated 300,000 people have fled the region.

The U.S. released $10 million to assist the refugees last week.

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