Mali conflict poses risk to regions economies: IMF

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The conflict in Mali, which has extended to a hostage crisis at a natural gas field in Algeria, poses a risk to the region's economies, the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

“It is certainly a source of vulnerability for the neighboring economies,” Masood Ahmed, the head of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia affairs, said at a news briefing.

Ahmed said the economies of the Sahel, a region of north-central Africa south of the Sahara Desert, were “likely to be affected” by the battle between Islamist insurgents and the military forces of Mali and France.

As for Algeria, site of a deadly hostage taking at a gas site in the southern part of the country, he said it was too soon to assess the longer term impact on the economy.

“It’s a tragic incident that has a huge consequence in terms of loss of life,” the IMF official said.

“But in terms of investors, in terms of output, it’s something that is still a little too early to take a view on,” he said, adding: “This is a strong economy.”

The Algerian army launched an assault on the In Amenas gas complex Thursday to rescue the hostages from the site. A security official said the fighting had left dead 12 hostages and 18 kidnappers.

An undetermined number of foreign hostages remained at the remote gas plant Friday.

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