Downward spiral in Mali – rebel alliance unfolds
The alliance between the local Tuareg rebels in northern Mali with the Ansar Dine militants from Libya has ended.
Walter Russell Mead summarizes developments in his post The Longest Afterparty Ever? Libya and Mali.
The concise summary:
Ansar Dine has claimed control over northern Mali after driving out the Tuareg rebels. (The Tuaregs had initially worked with the group back in January to fight Malian government forces, though tribal and religious differences soon turned them against each other.)
Several media sources report the Ansar Dine militants have been destroying ancient sites in northern Mali. Consider the devastation in Timbuktu described in The Wall Street Journal’s report, Militants Damage Iconic Site in Mali:
In the past week, Timbuktu’s occupiers have ripped out dozens of graves, several ancestral shrines, and a door whose opening, according to local legend, was said, would herald the end of the world. The United Nations, the U.S., France, and the International Criminal Court have warned that such destruction could constitute a war crime, given the city’s history as a capital of medieval learning.
I have so much to learn, including the ancient history of Timbuktu:
The Djinguereber Mosque has long stood as a symbol of Islam’s golden era, when much of the world’s gold passed on caravans through the market city. At its 16th century height, 25,000 students came at any given time from across Africa to study botany, recite poetry, and track comets in the university that housed the mosque.
The mosque is beautiful. Check out a few pictures.
I enjoy visiting the Spanish missions across California and Old Town in San Diego. Those sites are only about 1½ centuries old. Image the delight of visiting a university and place of worship that is 7 centuries old.
The Wall Street Journal article U.S. Concerns Grow Over Mali Unrest reported there are about 230,000 refugees that have fled the country with about 150,000 that are internally displaced and an additional 140,000 people who are likely to abandon their homes.
The article also reports that Ansar Dine has kicked out the Tuareg forces:
Making matters worse, rebel groups took advantage of the power vacuum to rapidly encroach on the northern part of Mali, an area larger than France. In June, an al Qaeda-linked group vowing to impose Islamic law declared they had driven out another rebel group of ethnic Tuareg separatists and had assumed control over northern Mali.