Islamist and al-Qaeda forces, along with former Gadhafi mercenaries, have wrested control over Mali’s entire northern territory with the recent seizure of a key Malian city, an unsettling outcome which marks just one of the ugly after-effects of Libya’s civil war.
FrontPage Magazine The recent seizure of Timbuktu, located 600 miles north of Mali’s capital of Bamako, by rebel forces battling the Malian government represented the government’s last major stronghold seizure in the north. Having already lost the northern Mali cities of Kidal and Gao only days earlier, the capture of Timbuktu has marked the effective end of the Malian government’s control over its northern territory, a desert region larger than France.
More importantly, there are now fears that a rebellion that began in January as a separatist movement is being overtaken by Islamist and al-Qaeda factions. These factions are not interested in a creating a separate secular state but rather are intent on turning the entire country of Mali into a Sharia-run Islamic state.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, “It appears that an extreme Islamist-jihadist faction (Ansar Dine) is taking the upper hand among the different Tuareg factions.” For starters, it was the Ansar Dine, led by Salafist leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, which was the group which actually captured the city of Timbuktu, raising its black Islamist flag over the city and claiming it as its new base.
In addition to Timbuktu, it is reported that the Ansar Dine has already begun to flex it muscle by imposing new Islamic measures in recently captured cities of Kidal and Gao, measures which include the banning of Western-style clothes, music and alcohol.