Since “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” and its local allies captured northern Mali in March, Mopti has been the last outpost of government control in the centre of the country. The fact that the Islamists appear to have advanced towards Mopti suggests they are enlarging the area under their control, which already exceeds 300,000 square miles.

Colonel Yamoussa Camara, the defence minister, told Radio France International that “jihadist elements” had increased their forces in positions opposite the national army.