• 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
Violent storms to drench south-western France
Nasty storms are expected to hit south-western France on Friday. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Violent storms to drench south-western France

Nineteen departments in south-western France were under an orange alert on Friday--the second highest warning level--due to a set of nasty storms carrying heavy rain, hail and packing high winds. READ  

Flight AH5017 tragedy
No survivors in Mali crash, 54 French killed
There were no survivors of the Air Algérie flight that crashed in Africa. Photo: AFP/ECPAD

No survivors in Mali crash, 54 French killed

AS IT HAPPENED: France's president says there were no survivors of the Air Algerie crash in Africa, at the same time French authorities are ruling out the possibility the jet was shot down, saying bad weather is thus far the apparent cause. READ  

Paris police ban pro-Palestinian demo
Paris has banned a pro-Palestinian march set for Saturday. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Paris police ban pro-Palestinian demo

After a string of pro-Palestinian marches turned violent in the past week, Paris's police authority has banned a march set for Saturday that is in protest of Israel's air and ground incursion into Gaza. READ  

Anti-gay mayor performs gay son's wedding
An anti-gay French mayor said 'never say never' after performing the wedding of his gay son. Photo: Hands.

Anti-gay mayor performs gay son's wedding

A French mayor known for his hardcore opposition to the country’s highly controversial decision last year to allow gay marriage, has found a same-sex union he can allow. He recently performed the wedding of his own son, who is gay. READ  

Ten bizarre facts about French Parliament
Here's ten interesting and funny things you didn't now aboute France's National Assembly. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Ten bizarre facts about French Parliament

As Friday is the official start of summer holiday for members of French parliament, The Local has decided to have a little fun with them and has brought you 10 bizarre facts about its National Assembly. They're good for a laugh, but you also might learn something. READ  

Top Parisian tourist spots could open 7/7
Some of Paris's top tourist spots may stay open seven days a week. Photo: Ironypoisoning/Flickr

Top Parisian tourist spots could open 7/7

Three of Paris’s main tourist attractions, the Louvre museum, the Musée d’Orsay and the Palace of Versailles, may soon stay open seven days a week in a bid to accommodate more visitors amid dwindling subsidies. READ  

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'
The latest map released by officials in Burkina Faso, showing the presumed site where the plane is believed to have come down. Photo: Airport of Ougadougou

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'

An Air Algérie-operated flight carrying 116 people on board, including 51 French nationals, is believed to have crashed in Mali on Thursday. There have been unconfirmed reports that the wreckage of the plane has been found. READ  

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus
French border police find an arsenal of weapons on board a Eurolines bus. Photo: Sludge Gulper/FLickr

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus

French border police seized a small arsenal of firearms and ammunition they found stowed aboard a bus that was passing through France on its way to London, French media reported on Thursday. Officers are still looking for the owner of the weapons. READ  

France is among EU's biggest public spenders
France is one of Europe's biggest spenders, but its not getting great services. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

France is among EU's biggest public spenders

The French government is the third biggest public spender in Europe, yet the quality of the health, pension and education services its paying for are significantly lower than other EU countries. A new government study explains why. READ  

Gaza crisis
France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians
An injured Palestinian is rushed to hospital in Gaza for treatment. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP

France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians

BREAKING NEWS: France is to hand over €11 million worth of aid for Palestinians in Gaza, President François Hollande announced on Thursday morning after meeting with several NG0s at the Elysée Palace. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Gallery
Like cycling? Love France? See the top ten best cycling routes in France
International
'They think beer is a vegetable': What the French really think of Germans
National
Sarkozy's dream of a 2017 comeback is not dead yet
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is better than Germany (we're not talking football)
Gallery
Paris in Summer: Ten things to do on a shoestring
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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