Al-Qaeda threat contained in Mali - minister

Bamako - Mali's Festival in the Desert, starting on Thursday in Timbuktu, will show that the threat from al-Qaeda in the region has been contained, the tourism minister said on Wednesday.

"We will be at the festival with a few thousand people, including many tourists, to show that security issues are contained in northern Mali. The tourists come from everywhere, even Australia," Tourism Minister Ndiaye Bah told AFP.

The 11th edition of the festival celebrating the culture of the Tuareg people will include music, entertainment and camel races.

The manager of a Timbuktu hotel said hundreds of European tourists had booked for the festival.

A source close to the presidency said President Amadou Toumani Toure would make "a tour" of the festival on an unspecified date.

Units of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have been active in northern Mali in recent months, carrying out multiple kidnappings and executions of foreigners.

On September 16 five French, a Togolese and a Madagascan were kidnapped in northern Niger and are currently being held in northeast of Mali.

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