More Problems in Mali


Geography in the News: Al Qaeda and Tuareg in Mali – News Watch.

The French have their work cut out for them.  After a military coup last spring

[t]he Tuareg and their surrogates, radical Islamists and al Qaeda, using heavy weapons confiscated during Libya’s uprising, quickly came to control most of the north—one of the poorest areas of the world.

Now they are advancing south, and the French, along with a Pan-African force not yet in place, are trying to stop them.


Timbuktu and Tuareg, Too

Rebels threaten Timbuktu’s ancient treasures – ABC Melbourne – Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Timbuktu, a cradle of Islamic learning and a thriving trade centre in its 16th-century heyday, was overrun on Sunday by Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels.

The takeover follows hard on the heel of a military coup in the Mali capital.  Tuareg rebels took advantage of the power vacuum to seize the ancient city.

The ancient trading center, a link between gold and salt traders, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Once home to universities with 25,000 students, the town is now being swallowed by the sands of the Sahara desert.  But many of those ancient library manuscripts still exist:

Timbuktu is home to nearly 100,000 ancient manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century, preserved in family homes and private libraries under the care of religious scholars.

“These manuscripts have survived through the ages thanks to a secular order, in an area of trade where all the region’s peoples intersect. With the arrival of the Islamists, that secular order is broken, that culture is in danger,” he said.

Also endangered is the unique architecture of Timbuktu.  Mud mosques and houses abound, but the buildings are susceptible to bullets.

“Timbuktu’s outstanding earthen architectural wonders that are the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia must be safeguarded,” UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said.

She called the city “essential to the preservation of the identity of the people of Mali and of our universal heritage”.

Will the coup leaders heed the calls of the African Union to stand down and restore democracy?  Will the rebels destroy the ancient city, or will they retreat?  Hopefully Mali’s unique treasures will survive this most recent assault.

Read a description of the town in the 1700s here.

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