Mali: Islamists push Tuaregs from last bastion

2012-07-12 19:14
(File, Shutterstock)

(File, Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Bamako - Islamist fighters in north Mali have driven Tuareg rebels from their final stronghold, according to witnesses, as the country grapples for solutions to win back territory from the jihadists.

Mali's embattled interim leaders are discussing the formation of a unity government to better deal with a crisis which has seen the destruction of ancient World Heritage treasures in Timbuktu by the hardline Islamists.

The Islamists have destroyed ancient Muslim shrines in Timbuktu, an endangered World Heritage Site, which they see as idolatrous, prompting a chorus of grief and outrage at home and abroad.

The United States expressed outrage at the destruction of ancient sites, calling it an "assault" on African heritage.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland called for an "immediate end to these destructive and irreversible acts" and urged all sides to protect the "invaluable cultural heritage" of the sites.

She added that Washington supports the mediation efforts of West African countries and the African Union in returning civilian rule to the country and crushing the rebellion in the north.

In Nouakchott, army chiefs from Mauritania, Algeria, Mali and Niger met on Wednesday to look at ways to help the country win back an area larger than France which has been run by armed groups for over three months.

One of these groups, the Tuareg separatist rebels who spearheaded the collapse of one of West Africa's most stable democracies, have now been fully routed in their own rebellion by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamists.

Seeking survival

"The Tuareg rebels were driven out by the Islamists from their last bastion, Ansogo, situated 100km north of Gao," said a local government official in the town.

He said that while the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) had still controlled part of the zone, "now it's finished, they have run off into the bush".

"Now our whole region is in the hands of Islamists."

The information was confirmed by Malian doctor Albert Djigue, who on Wednesday drove to the city of Gao from the Niger border.

"From the Niger border, passing through Ansogo before arriving in Gao, I didn't see a single MNLA fighter. They have all left. It is the Islamists who are in charge," he said.

Djigue said the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) had reinforced their positions, taking over the municipality's public works building as well as the Centre for Educational Organisation.

This latest defeat means the Tuareg rebels no longer control any town in northern Mali, and are moving through the Islamist-controlled area in small groups, seeking survival rather than combat.

The MNLA was formed in late 2011, including members of separatist rebel groups who were active in the 1990s.

Boosted by the return of heavily armed Tuareg who had gone to fight for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the rebels launched their rebellion in January and quickly overwhelmed a demoralised and poorly equipped Malian army.

Unity government

A group of low-ranking soldiers, angry and frustrated, carried out a coup on March 22 against a government they said was incompetent in dealing with the rebellion.

But the coup only worsened the situation as the unmanned north became easy prey and fell to rebel groups in a matter of days.

The Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) backed by MUJAO, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), appeared fighting on the flanks of the Tuareg rebels in an unclear alliance.

The MNLA was swiftly pushed aside as the jihadists planted their black flags in key cities.

The ideologies and objectives of the armed groups were always at odds: The MNLA want independence for their traditional homeland which they call Azawad, and the Islamists want a state run on strict Islamic law.

Interim authorities who took over from the junta have proved powerless to deal with the occupation, and West African mediators have given them until 31 July to create a "unity government" with a clear timeline to exit the crisis.

After the destruction of the latest two mausolea on Tuesday, members of Timbuktu's Arab community has set up an armed brigade to protect the remaining tombs of ancient Muslim saints.

"We are not going to allow people who know nothing about Islam to come and destroy our treasures," said Tahel Ould Sidy, leader of the unit.

Read more on:    tuaregs  |  aqim  |  al-qaeda  |  mali  |  west africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Music
Traffic & Train Alerts
Traffic
Montague Gardens 17:07 PM
Road name: Bosmansdam Road Eastbound

DELAYS between Ratanga Road and the N7 Highway

Montague Gardens 17:06 PM
Road name: Montague Drive Southbound

DELAYS approaching Bosmansdam Road due to roadworks

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 30% off top fragrances

Get mind blowing savings on selected fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Today you may want to bond with your children and need to connect to your imaginative and playful side. It may be that you are...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.