Timbuktu: The huge area of northern Mali has become a stronghold of Islamic extremists who introduce themselves as Islamic Jihadists and have imposed strict Islamic rules which has caused thousands of people to migrate from these areas.
According to the experts, the situation is getting tougher in Mali especially in the northern region which includes the famous and historical city of Timbuktu along with other far-flung towns as the Islamic extremists forces have taken the control of the areas and causing trouble for the people living there with self-imposed stringent form of justice.
The experts expressed their concerns that the northern Mali has become a magnet and attracting extremists of other countries to join the local jihadists which can create a dangerous threat in coming days not only for locals but at international scene as well.
They said that the northern Mali is now looking like an African Afghanistan with full of Islamic jihadists who follow strict Islamic school of thought, Salafism or Wahabism, and are willing to prevail justice with stick and gun compelling thousands of people fleeing the areas.
The makeshift refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania’s remote eastern edge, is a witness of Islamic extremists influx in Mali who fear their form of justice of lash and gun and have long coexisted with western tourists in the famous town of Timbuktu.
The condition of Malian refugees in Mbera camp is pitiful as many of them are sick, hungry and bewildered. Despite these difficulties, the refugees said that they are in better condition at the refugee camp than their homes as their lives have turned upside-down due to the presence of Islamic extremists at their home towns including Timbuktu, Goundam, Gao and Kidal.
They told that they used to witness repeated whippings, beatings and other punishments in the streets of Mali, apparently for having violated strict laws imposed by the extremists. Some of them said that they have been subjected to this harsh justice themselves.
Living under rows of dirty blue-and-white UN tents or under makeshift sheet-and-stick shelters, refugees spoke of heavily armed men of numerous races, nationalities and languages. One said, “Black, brown, yellow, white now controlling the streets.”
Sidi said, “They have completely turned our way of life upside-down. They have imposed a kind of religion on us we have never seen. You can’t even walk with your wife. We’re like prisoners.” He and others said that even the Spartan conditions at the camp are preferable.
The US counterterrorism experts expressed concerns that Mali could turn into a magnet for international terrorists, but they say that such reports have not yet been corroborated.
A US official, while discussing sensitive intelligence matters, said on the condition of anonymity, “The concern is that these local groups will further establish a safe haven in northern Mali to serve as a base of operations.”
“Then maybe northern Mali could become a destination for foreign fighters from the wider region and even further afield, but it isn’t there yet,” he added.