• France edition
 
Troops patrol Timbuktu after hero's welcome
A handout photo shows a French soldier standing on a armoured vehicle at the Timbuktu airport. Photo: AFP /ECPAD/ Arnaud Roine

Troops patrol Timbuktu after hero's welcome

Published: 29 Jan 2013 09:19 GMT+01:00
Updated: 29 Jan 2013 09:19 GMT+01:00

As residents cheered the arriving troops, the city's mayor denounced what he called a crime against culture, saying that Islamists fleeing the French-led offensive had torched a building housing priceless ancient manuscripts.

Financial aid meanwhile was beginning to flow into the troubled region.

On Tuesday, Japan announced it would give an extra $120 million to help stabilise Africa's Sahel region, days after 10 Japanese nationals were killed
in the Algerian hostage siege.

The announcement came just hours before a donor conference for the Mali mission opened at African Union headquarters in Ethiopia.

Already on Monday the International Monetary Fund agreed to provide an $18.4 million emergency loan to Mali.

The recapture of Timbuktu came 18 days after France, with the support of Malian troops, launched an offensive against radical Islamists who seized control of the country's north 10 months ago following a coup in Bamako.

The Islamist fighters, whose move into the government-controlled south sparked the foreign intervention, have retreated in the face of the advance
and retain control over just one stronghold: the town of Kidal in the desert hills of the far north, 1,500 kilometres (932 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako.

Asked if French troops would press on to try to force the Islamists out of the mountainous north of the country, French President Francois Hollande said: "Now the Africans can take over...

"We know that this is the most difficult part because the terrorists are hidden there and can still carry out extremely dangerous operations, for neighbouring countries and Mali," he said from Paris.

Residents of Timbuktu, an ancient city on the edge of the Sahara desert, erupted in joy as French and Malian troops drove in on Monday. "Mali, Mali, Mali," they shouted, as they waved French and Malian flags.

"There were no shots fired, no blood spilt. Not even passive resistance with traps," Colonel Frederic Gout, head of French helicopter operations at the city, told AFP.

Residents said many of the Islamist occupiers had left several days ago, as French air strikes rained down on their bases. The electricity and the phone networks were both out of action.

'A real cultural crime'

As the Franco-Malian force approached the city, however, reports emerged that a building housing tens of thousands of centuries-old Muslim and Greek manuscripts had been set on fire.

Timbuktu mayor Halley Ousmane, speaking from the capital Bamako, confirmed accounts of the fire at the Ahmed Baba Centre for Documentation and Research.

"It's a real cultural crime," he said.

Set up in 1973, the centre housed between 60,000 and 100,000 manuscripts, according to Mali's culture ministry.

Timbuktu was for centuries a cosmopolitan city and a centre of Islamic learning.

Radical Islamists seized it in April 2012 as they took control of Mali's desert north in the chaos that followed a military coup last March.

They forced women in Timbuktu to wear veils, and those judged to have violated their strict version of Islamic law were whipped and stoned. The militants also destroyed ancient Muslim shrines they considered idolatrous.

On Monday however, residents of the city were celebrating their new-found freedom.

Lahlia Garba, a woman in her fifties, expressed relief that the hard-line Islamists had been forced out.

"I had to wear a burqa, gloves and cover everything," she said.

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned Mali over reports its army had committed abuses.

Rights groups and journalists have reported allegations that Malian troops have executed suspects on the spot in towns recaptured during the offensive.
 

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Top Gear to launch new French version of show
Hit British car series "Top Gear" is coming to France. Photo: Ana Poenariu/AFP

Top Gear to launch new French version of show

France is going to get its own version of legendary British auto series Top Gear with the show set to hit the TV screens by next year. READ  

Ukraine crisis
Mistral deal: Pressure on France as tensions rise
France may be forced to take another another look at its warship deal with Russia. Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

Mistral deal: Pressure on France as tensions rise

Increased tension in the Ukraine has only served to heighten the pressure on France, which so far has stubbornly refused to pull-out of its €1.2 billion deal to sell two Mistral warships to Russia. But will Paris be forced to re-consider? READ  

Paris building blast: Eighth body found
Firefighters pull a body from the rubble after an explosion brought down an apartment block near Paris on Sunday. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Paris building blast: Eighth body found

French rescue workers pulled an eighth body out of the rubble of a four-storey building near Paris on Monday. The apartment block collapsed on Sunday after an explosion. Rescuers don't believe anyone else is still missing. READ  

Opinion - School reform
'New five-day week is vital for French pupils'
French primary school pupils will attend school five days a week from now on, despite opposition from parents. Photo: Shutterstock

'New five-day week is vital for French pupils'

The head of a major parents' group in France tells The Local why the new five-day school week will bring French schools into the 21st century. READ  

Ligue 1
Blow for French league as Falcao departs
Radamel Falcao has left French Ligue 1 side to join Manchester United. Photo: AFP

Blow for French league as Falcao departs

The French league was dealt a blow on Monday when one of its star names, Monaco's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, left to join Manchester United. The move shows clubs in France's Ligue 1, with the exception of PSG, cannot compete with Europe's big teams. READ  

Photo of French pupils draws 'racist' backlash
An Education Ministry photo has prompted an online controversy in France, because only one kid is white. Photo: Sophie Brändström/Education Ministry

Photo of French pupils draws 'racist' backlash

The French government has firmly rebuked scores of 'racist' comments left on an education ministry Facebook post which shows a back-to-school scene with mostly non-white children. The image has elicited a furious online debate. READ  

French bureaucrats go after baker for 22 cents
Bureaucrats at the RSI have threatened legal action against a retired baker for a debt of 22 centimes. Photo: AFP

French bureaucrats go after baker for 22 cents

A retired pastry maker from the south of France was given a nasty shock this week when French authorities threatened to take legal action against him over unpaid debt. He stands accused of owing 22 centimes to the state. A stamp in France costs 59 cents. READ  

Ask The Experts - French savings
Saving money in France: What's the best option?
What's the best thing to do with your savings in France? Photo: Shutterstock

Saving money in France: What's the best option?

Ever wondered what's the best thing to do with your savings in France? As part of our "Ask The Experts" series we've invited expat financial adviser Jonathan Cooper to tell you what to do with your hard-earned euros. READ  

France's 'Tony Blair' divides Socialist Party
Does the French PM Manuel Valls remind you of anyone? A younger Tony Blair perhaps? Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

France's 'Tony Blair' divides Socialist Party

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged Socialist Party rebels to unite behind the government this weekend, as opposition among dissenters on the left against the leader they are increasingly referring to as a French "Tony Blair", continues to grow. READ  

Ligue 1 round-up
PSG in five-goal rout as Bordeaux slip up
Zlatan celebrates after scoring one of three goals against St Etienne on Sunday night. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

PSG in five-goal rout as Bordeaux slip up

French champions PSG made a statement of intent on Sunday beating Saint Etienne 5-0 at the Parc des Princes, while leaders Bordeaux slipped up at home to Bastia and Lyon lost again. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se