Timbuktu turns into a ghost town

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Timbuktu turns into a ghost town
FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2012 file photo, fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamist group Ansar Dine leave after performing a public amputation, severing the hand of a young man found guilty of stealing rice, in Timbuktu, Mali. France launched a military operation Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 to help the government of Mali defeat al-Qaida-linked militants who captured more ground this week, dramatically raising the stakes in the battle for this vast desert nation. (AP Photo/File)

“Rebel forces have made Timbuktu a ghost town in Mali. The West African country is currently attempting to remove Islamist rebel groups in the area, and the impact can be seen in Timbuktu. The city has no water or electricity, so most of the residents, including the rebels, have left the area.

“Timbuktu has been one of the areas that forces from France and Mali have been battling to remove rebels. Sources claim that the rebel groups had been using generators to keep electricity in the city going, but their departure has meant the end for both electricity and drinking water. Phone services are also no longer available in Timbuktu. Residents have stated that the rebels deliberately sabotaged these services as they were leaving.

“As rebel groups have taken over the north, the stability of the local government in Mali continues to be questioned. Help from French troops has allowed local forces to drive out some of the rebels. Air raids have been effective in parts of Mali. However, victory may be fleeting since the groups have simply retreated to other parts of the country to rethink their strategy and plan for regaining control of the country.

“Reports of abuse and executions from both rebel groups and Mali’s soldiers have been prevalent. Both sides have been accused of violating human rights. Anyone who is suspected of helping the extremists runs the risk of execution without a trial. Meanwhile, the rebels have been killing people who they believe are plotting against them or spying on them. Bodies have been allegedly thrown into wells or buried in shallow graves.

“The instability of Timbuktu is one example of the long-term issues facing Mali. The country is in turmoil, and there do not seem to be any easy solutions at this point. France has promised to continue to support Mali by providing assistance and troops while it fights rebel forces. In addition, other countries in Africa including Chad and Niger have sent troops. Despite the confirmed deaths of several rebel leaders, the fighting is not over. They are simply hiding and regrouping for the next attack.

“Residents are still fleeing Timbuktu because they no longer feel safe in the city. The lack of basic services like water and electricity is also a motivating factor. There is an estimated figure of more than 200,000 displaced people in Mali because of the fighting, and this number is increasing.


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