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  1. #1
    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Mali

    surprise disarmament exercise leaves soldier dead in Mali
    AFP: Surprise disarmament exercise leaves soldier dead in Mali
    (AFP) – 1 hour ago

    BAMAKO — A surprise operation Saturday in Bamako to disarm police thought to be close to the authors of Mali's 2012 coup sparked a clash that left one soldier dead, a military source said.

    A police officer was wounded in the leg during the raid on a police camp in the Malian capital, the source told AFP.

    "It was a policeman who refused to disarm that fired on the soldier who died," the source said. "The same policeman let off another shot by mistake that wounded one of his comrades," he added.

    An AFP reporter saw the body of the dead soldier, as well as the wounded policeman, in the courtyard of the police camp.

    Soldiers and gendarmes had surrounded the camp before seizing several automatic weapons. Around 10 police were arrested including three women, but five escaped over the camp's perimeter wall, the source said.

    He said any police officer bearing heavy weapons was breaking the law.

    A security ministry official told AFP: "The fun is over. We can no longer accept this disarray at a time when the international community is helping Mali recover."

    An investigation into the incident has been opened, the government said in a statement.

    A faction of police rival to those who resisted the operation, said they were in favour of disarmament.

    "We are satisfied with the operation that disarmed police from the other group who were in possession of illegal weapons," said policeman Jean Samake.

    "Nous we want the state to revise promotions given to those same police officers."

    Saturday's raid follows a reported shootout between police and trade unionists overnight Thursday in which four people were allegedly wounded.

    The trade unionists dispute promotions awarded to police officers reputedly close to the coup makers and influential in the capital.

    Ethnic Tuareg rebels seized the country's vast arid north in the chaos following the March 2012 coup before losing control to well-armed Islamists.

    A French-led intervention quickly drove insurgents from most of their northern strongholds, but significant pockets of resistance remain in the Ifoghas mountains as well as in the cities of Gao and Timbuktu.

    France is to start withdrawing its 4,000 troops at the end of April, and plans to leave a "support force" of 1,000 soldiers after elections promised for July.

    A bunch of racist, AQ supporting slave holders. Author never mentions slavery of Blacks, the racist views of the Tauregs, the violence they conducted when they took power. No a sob story about "light skinned" people suffering. Thugs in that region know how to play dumb liberal white people.
    Mali's Tuareg people retain dream of independence amid persecution
    Mali's Tuareg people retain dream of independence amid persecution | World news | guardian.co.uk
    Life under sharia law during the Islamist invasion was hard. But for many Tuareg, life under the Mali army was impossible

    MALIAN MEDIATOR TUAREG CHIEF AG GHALI ATTENDS A CEREMONY FOR RELEASED TOURISTS IN BAMAKO.
    Iyad Ag Ghaly (far left) once hailed as the Tuareg Che Guevara is the subject of increasing resentment from his people. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

    Hamid did not touch his guitar from the day rebels arrived in the Mali town of Gao until the day the Islamists left. The Tuareg musician lived under the puritanical rule of the Mujao militia from April 2012 until the French army drove them out in January.

    "All my band members left for Algeria or Niger but I stayed," he said. "I didn't agree with leaving. I didn't see why I should do it."

    Life under sharia law was difficult and occasionally dangerous for a musician. But for many Tuareg – identifiable by their lighter skin – the prospect of living with the Malian army was worse. "I'm more frightened of the Malian Army and tribal militias like the Ganda Koy, than the Mujao (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa)," he said. "All they look at is your colour."

    As soon as the French arrived with Malian soldiers in their wake, Hamid (not his real name) left for Ouagadougou, the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, where he depends on the kindness of distant relatives.

    The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, recently berated Mali's president Dioncounda Traoré about increasing reports of military violence against light-skinned civilians. Human Rights Watch and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have also accused the Malian army of racist attacks against innocent Tuareg, Arabs and Fulani men.

    As many feared, wresting the northern two thirds of Mali back from the Islamists has been easier than reuniting the nation. The tumultuous events of the past year have provoked much soul-searching among Tuareg, calling into question their long-held dream for independence in the northern region of Mali that they call Azawad. Until 18 months ago, the nomadic Berber people whose territory straddles five Saharan nations, were best known in the west for their colourful clothing and music festival held in the desert near Timbuktu. This benign image soured in 2011 when reports emerged that opportunistic Tuareg mercenaries were propping up the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

    Things worsened in February 2012 amid news that heavily armed Tuareg fighters were sweeping from Libya back into northern Mali and teaming up with al-Qaida-linked jihadists to bring Mali to its knees.

    Recently on Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson joked that Volkswagen was holding urgent board meetings after learning that the Tuareg, after whom a luxury 4x4 SUV was named a few years ago, were in fact "running guns from Libya to Mali and fighting there alongside hardline Islamists". Clarkson followed this with quips about "the new VW Lord's Resistance Army Van" with its "independent rear access or IRA"."

    Yet most Tuareg do not even begin to see themselves as Islamists, terrorists or gunrunners and are dismayed by their new starring role in the "global war on terror".

    Many Tuareg blame their former hero Iyad Ag Ghaly. Once a leader of the Tuareg separatist movement in Mali, Ag Ghaly, who had become a "born again" Muslim in the 1990s, made a pact with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) early last year to take control of northern Mali and impose sharia law. Now he is on the run from the French and Chadian armies in the remote Tigharghar mountains in the far north east of Mali.

    Despite their legendary reserve, many Tuareg find it difficult to hide their resentment towards Ag Ghaly. "Anyone who really knows Tuareg society will be aware it's one of the most tolerant societies in the world," says Anara Ag El Moctar, a Tuareg lawyer living in France. "I don't know Iyad Ag Ghaly but I think he's played a very negative role for our society. His desire to impose Salafism on us was incomprehensible. It doesn't resemble us at all. It's like putting hot pepper in milk."

    A young MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) fighter was less charitable about the man they once called the Tuareg Che Guevara. "I never want to meet Iyad Ag Ghaly," he said, asking not to be named. "If I did I would probably have to kill him. He's ruined the image of the Tuareg. He's ruined our culture. He's ruined everything."

    This upsurge of anger against Ag Ghaly is part of a wider dissatisfaction with many of the long-standing cadres and leaders of the Tuareg cause, who some believe are more interested in marbling their villas than serving their people. There's a growing feeling that the hegemony of powerful Tuareg families is doing a disservice to the people.

    "The first priority for our people is education," says Fatimata Walet Oumar, a Tuareg women's rights activist and leader singer of the group Tartit Ensemble. "I mean for children of the poorest sections of society. Hierarchies must change. In fact they are already changing. The powerful clans have their history. It's there and it can't be changed. The future is something else."

    A former rebel leader who now works for the Tuareg prime minister of Niger, Brigi Rafini, says the Tuareg can no longer view their cause in ethnic terms. "The politics of the uprising in Mali are stronger than me and stronger than my region," he says. "It's not just a problem of the Maghreb or the Sahel. It's an international problem. Americans and Europeans, Chinese and Japanese are involved. We have no experience of that. But we've begun to learn, we've begun to play the game."

    Nonetheless the old cause lives on. "I still have the dream of independence," said the MNLA fighter. "It's engraved in our hearts. There will always be turncoats and traitors but even if they've signed some kind of accord with Mali, tomorrow someone will awaken. Maybe me, maybe someone else or maybe the child of one of the people they killed. We'll never get to the end of it. There are too many orphans now."
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  2. #2
    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    30 March 2013 Last updated at 22:35 ET
    BBC News - Mali conflict: Desert fighting on 'Mars'
    Mali conflict: Desert fighting on 'Mars'
    By Thomas Fessy BBC News, northern Mali
    French-led forces have recovered the main cities in northern Mali held by Islamist rebels. But in the desert, the fighting goes on, in terrain that appears to be from another planet.

    The helicopter flew with its lights off in the dead of night.

    When we finally landed, we could feel the sharp rocks under our boots but still could not see anything. It felt like we were cut off from the rest of the world.

    Later the first light of dawn revealed the vastness of a rocky desert, with mountain crests and sandy lines cutting through the landscape like human veins. I don't think I have ever felt that small, that insignificant.

    As the sun rose, soldiers appeared one after another in their beige uniforms, ready to march through yet another day in this hostile wilderness.

    These men were from the French Foreign Legion, a force which, uniquely, draws its soldiers from many nationalities.
    Soldier at sunrise

    Traditionally it is prepared to draw a veil over a candidate's background or criminal record.

    But today many Eastern Europeans or South Americans join up simply because they can earn a lot more money than they would with their own countries' armies.

    "We've just left planet Earth and we're now on Mars," a Romanian legionnaire shouted.

    We were climbing a steep hill, over jagged and slippery rocks, at the time.
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    From the top we hoped to get a view of the whole valley below.

    With flak jacket on, helmet, rucksack, TV and radio equipment, enough food for the day and six litres of water, we were carrying more than 30 kilos in weight.

    The soldiers, with their weapons and ammunition, each carried twice that weight.

    By 9am, we had been walking for three hours and it was over 40 degrees Celsius.

    The heat waves were actually visible in the air, and as an Australian corporal put it to me: "A bit of wind feels like someone aiming a blow-dryer right into your face."

    The legionnaires were searching the desert for jihadi fighters. They had discovered plenty of their hideouts already.

    In some, established near the rare wells in this dry and arid landscape, militants had grown their own vegetable gardens.
    French Foreign Legion in Mali

    The soldiers loved the fresh tomatoes and onions - delicacies after days of military rations.

    One legionnaire pointed towards his boots - they were so destroyed by the rocks that he was happy to find a pair which had been abandoned by the enemy.

    He swapped his boots and joked about wearing "jihadi shoes".

    Most of the soldiers had served in Afghanistan. One said that the trickiest thing there was that as soon as they engaged the enemy, they would melt away into the villages.

    Here, though, they can be anywhere around us. And they fight to the death.

    We did not run into a firefight during the two days we spent marching with the Legion.

    But we found explosives and other items left behind by the jihadis.
    Shadow of a helicopter in the desert

    We had seen the remains of suicide bombers in the northern town of Gao. Now we were looking at the sort of explosive belts they used.

    A French de-mining engineer explained that they were very sophisticated with detonators made of copper, which is harder for metal detectors to spot.

    There were also drums filled with nitrate for making bombs. The French blew them all up before we moved on.

    We entered a dry sandy riverbed, which led to a long stretch of flat desert.

    We had to reach a hill on the far side and the officer in charge, Captain Clement, was worried we would be too exposed, out in the open: "We won't be able to take cover if anything happens."

    But there was no other way. We had to do it in one go, and fast.

    As we started to sprint, the captain explained that one of his men had been shot and wounded by a sniper a few weeks before.
    French Foreign Legionnaire on the radio

    Eventually we reached the top of the hill on the far side of that flat stretch of desert. We all fell to the ground.

    The rocks we lay on felt like burning coals but we were so exhausted, standing up was simply not an option.

    My mouth and throat were dry. It was painful to swallow.

    We marched nearly all that day under the boiling sun. When darkness eventually fell, the temperature, in this landscape of extremes, rapidly dropped to freezing point.

    Exhausted, we lay our sleeping bags on the desert floor, climbed in and went to sleep under the stars.

    The legionnaires had been chasing jihadi fighters on foot for weeks. They had lost track of time.

    For them, this was just another day in Mali's far north or, as they call it, planet Mars.

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    Families in Mali splintered by slavery as culture and conflict converge | Celeste Hicks | Global development | guardian.co.uk

    Families in Mali splintered by slavery as culture and conflict converge

    Tuareg rebels are capitalising on fighting in Mali to reacquire former captives whom they regard as their property from birth

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    Celeste Hicks
    Celeste Hicks in Bamako
    guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 3 April 2013 04.59 EDT

    MDG : Slavery : A child (slave) washes dishes in a crowded a slum in Bamako, Mali
    A child in Bamako. The collapse of the state in Mali makes slavery hard to combat. Photograph: Jake Lyell/Alamy

    "I haven't heard anything about my brother for more than a year," says Raichatou Walet Touka. She's been living at a safehouse in Bamako, Mali's capital, after fleeing the northern town of Gao following an attack by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg rebel group that briefly took over northern Mali in early 2012.

    Thousands were displaced by the fighting, and the subsequent battle for control of northern Mali between Islamist rebels and the MNLA. But the situation facing Raichatou has been particularly perilous, for she comes from a family considered by many in the MNLA leadership as slaves.

    "I can't sleep at night," she says, wiping away tears. "I wake up feeling bad and thinking about my family who are still there."

    In 2008, Raichatou escaped slavery in the northern desert town of Menaka, heading for the relative safety of Gao. But when the MNLA took control, she fled, fearing her old Tuareg slave masters might try to recapture her.

    Anti-slavery groups say the conflict and ensuing political chaos in Mali has worsened the situation facing the 250,000 people who live in conditions of slavery in the west African state. The MNLA leadership and parts of the Ansar Dine Islamist group, which fought for control of the north last year, come from Tuareg noble families, some of whom are responsible for continuing the practice of slavery in Mali.

    Malian anti-slavery organisation Temedt has reported cases of slave masters profiting from the chaos of the past year to recapture former slaves, including at least 18 children seized from one village last September. Raichatou believes this is the fate that may have befallen her brother, Ismagir Ag Touka.

    Although slavery is a crime against humanity in Mali's constitution, it remains deeply ingrained in the culture. For centuries, descent-based slavery – where slavery is passed down through the bloodline – has resulted in "black Tamasheq" (the Tuareg's language) families in Mali's north being used as slaves by nomadic Tuareg communities. Generations of children have been considered the property of the Tuaregs from birth.

    Despite the constitution, slavery is still not illegal in Mali, making it difficult for anti-slavery groups to launch criminal prosecutions.

    Raichatou became a slave at the age of seven when her mother, also a slave, died. "My father could only watch on helplessly as my mother's master came to claim me and my brothers," she says. She worked as a servant for the family without pay for nearly 20 years, and was forced into a marriage with another slave whom she didn't know.

    "My master only wanted me to have children so that he would have more slaves in the future. My opinion did not count. I had to live with a man I had not chosen for three years. They told me that the only way I would get to heaven was to obey my master."

    In 2008, she heard about Temedt and made her bid for freedom; finally, she was reunited with her father.

    "My instinct for liberty was telling me to grab every opportunity to be free, but my slave mentality was telling me the opposite" she says.

    Now, Temedt's work helping liberate people has been severely restricted. Its activists cannot travel safely and security is volatile.

    Efforts to bring civil compensation cases to court on behalf of escaped slaves have stalled with the collapse of Malian state institutions across the north. At least 17 slavery compensation cases that were going through the courts remain unresolved. There has been no progress on Raichatou's case. "I feel like everything we achieved has come to nothing. I have no hope," she says.

    "The absence of the state has left people without recourse or protection," says Sarah Mathewson, Africa programme co-ordinator at Anti-Slavery International.

    Funding for Temedt has been drying up, as donors pulled out of Mali following the coup in March 2012. A microcredit scheme for women of slave descent and a legal clinic offering advice to escapees have closed.

    "Our work has ground to a halt," says Intamat Ag Inkadewane, a community organiser for Temedt, who also fled Gao. "I'm just sitting here in Bamako; I'm not working, I'm not getting paid. There are things I want to do in the north, but we have no way of knowing when we can get back there."

    The recent French intervention in Mali does seem to be paying some security dividends with most of the Islamist fighters driven out of the main urban areas. But many slaves and ex-slaves say they still do not feel safe, since a new Tuareg group, the Islamic Movement for Azawad, is in control of the remote town of Kidal.

    Temedt's president, Ibrahim Ag Idbaltanat, says he hopes its work can soon resume. Elections due in July could provide a rare window of opportunity, according to Mathewson: "People of slave descent should be consulted and represented in national and international efforts to address the crisis so this issue is not forgotten."
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    BBC News - Timbuktu damage to Mali historic sites 'underestimated'

    What is it about vandalism in the name of Islam and jihad? I know that Muslims are not the only vandals in history (and of history) but there is something particularly galling about jihad and deliberate acts of vandalism and cultural genocide that seems to have had a continuous history ever since Mohammad conquered Mecca and apparently destroyed the idols there himself. I know that jihadis take their 'inspiration' for vandalism from that, but the question is, what for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1980s View Post
    BBC News - Timbuktu damage to Mali historic sites 'underestimated'

    What is it about vandalism in the name of Islam and jihad? I know that Muslims are not the only vandals in history (and of history) but there is something particularly galling about jihad and deliberate acts of vandalism and cultural genocide that seems to have had a continuous history ever since Mohammad conquered Mecca and apparently destroyed the idols there himself. I know that jihadis take their 'inspiration' for vandalism from that, but the question is, what for?
    Iconoclasm.

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