The situation in Mali shows difficulties in dealing with terrorism in unstable countries. On the one hand, the terrorists are easy to hate:

Timbuktu, which lies on an ancient caravan route, has entranced travelers for centuries, is some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) northeast of Bamako. During their rule, the militants have systematically destroyed UNESCO World Heritage sites in Timbuktu.

A spokesman for the al-Qaida-linked militants has said that the ancient tombs of Sufi saints were destroyed because they contravened Islam, encouraging Muslims to venerate saints instead of God.

Among the tombs they destroyed is that of Sidi Mahmoudou, a saint who died in 955, according to the UNESCO website.


The groups quickly sidelined the Tuaregs, imposing a harsh version of Islamic law which saw offenders flogged, stoned or executed.

Rebels also banned music and television, forced women to wear veils and destroyed ancient religious shrines in the World Heritage site of Timbuktu.


The United Nations children’s agency said late last year that it had been able to corroborate at least 175 reported cases of child soldiers in northern Mali, bought from their impoverished parents for between $1,000 and $1,200 per child. Malian human rights officials put the total number of children recruited by the Islamists considerably higher at 1,000 — and that was before the French intervention.

On the other hand, the Malian government isn’t so great either:

Adama was handed over to the Malian military, which in recent days has been accused of executing dozens of suspected Islamists, including a group of six men who arrived in Sevare without identity cards. Adama may have been saved by the international outcry that followed the reported executions this week, says Atallah, putting immense diplomatic pressure on Mali’s ill-trained and often incompetent army to respect human rights conventions.

which might be why journalists aren’t being allowed near the front:

Journalists cannot get closer than 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the fighting in Mali, according to Reporters Without Borders.

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