Photo taken by our Observer in Timbuktu, on October 13.
A France 24 Observer living in the Malian capital Bamako headed north to Timbuktu in October to visit his wife. While there, he took photographs of radical Islamists from the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine movement, who took control of the city earlier this year.
Government troops were pushed out on April 1st and Timbuktu fell into the hands of Tuareg rebels and radical Islamists. Within a few months, the Islamists drove out the Tuaregs, and they have now imposed strict Islamic religious law, known as Sharia.
Amnesty International has strongly condemned followers of Ansar Dine for using violence and inflicting heavy punishment against residents who fail to adhere to their unforgiving interpretation of Sharia.
As leaders in Bamako prepare for a military intervention
to reclaim parts of the north, representatives from Ansar Dine on Sunday took part in negotiations in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou, where they may bow to international pressure to cut ties with the al-Qaeda group AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb).
“Children found a grenade in an abandoned military camp”
I took this photo not far from Timbuktu’s railway station. The Islamists control the arrival and off loading of all market produce. But the workers didn’t seem particularly concerned by the presence of an Islamist with a gun. They went about their work without paying him any attention.
The Islamists are also present wherever groups of people gather, like Timbuktu’s main street, where the market takes place. They make sure all the women are wearing veils and control how the market sellers and customers interact. I didn’t see anyone get arrested, but residents told me it happens often.
A group of children came towards me; one of them was carrying something in his hand. They wanted me to take a photo. They had found a grenade in an abandoned military camp, once used by government troops but now occupied by the Islamists.