I watched some of the
The extremists' raid on an Algerian natural gas extraction plant near that country's southern border had been in the news, and many of those taken prisoner were executed or killed in action in the course of the Algerian army's attack to rescue them. (The Algerians are a tough lot, who fought a bloody war against Islamic jihadism in their own country.) Jihadists had also seized northern
Was the Sahara the newest great threat to
The commander (in
The development that followed was like the movies. Less than three weeks after arriving in
The French forces that approached Timbuktu from the south -- light mechanized units and marine infantry, with Malian soldiers accompanying them -- had overrun resistance from the jihadists in taking the town of Gao on Saturday. It and Timbuktu had been held by the Islamists for the past year.
Had the French bypassed jihadists who faded into the civil population (as well-trained guerillas are supposed to do) on their way to Timbuktu? Possibly, an officer said, but the main force of jihadist armed pick-up trucks were scattered northward, accompanied by French air attacks.
Legion parachutists were dropped to cut the main routes from Timbuktu leading toward the mountainous region on the Algerian frontier. More troops from West African countries are due eventually to take over from the French, under U.N. authority.
The jihadists had smashed several more holy sites and set fire to an additional Timbuktu library before leaving, destroying more of the medieval manuscripts for which the city is famous, all evidence of heresy in the eyes of the jihadists, who are determined to replace the more tolerant version of
The country is huge, well over twice the size of
Today, it is important for its minerals (including uranium), but most of the population are agriculturalists. The Tuareg, a Caucasoid people related to the Berbers, with an essentially feudal social structure, pastoral and traditionally nomadic, are a difficult minority. Their principal occupations have been raiding and warmaking, from which the French suffered in colonial days and the Islamists today, since the Tuareg these days are more interested in having a national territory than stoning adulteresses and chopping off the hands of thieves. Women are honored among Tuaregs, and inheritance is matrilineal.
Islamic terrorism is a problem wherever
The explosive situations in the Maghreb countries,
To get back to
- Nigeria's Squandered Opportunity
- Victims of Forgotten War Need the World's Attention
- China Works to Improve Image in Africa
- Will China Wear Out Its Welcome in Africa?
- Richest Businessman Says Libya Is Better Off
- Nobel Laureate Gbowee Laments Liberia's Political Disputes
- Egypt's Turmoil Makes Life Tougher for Refugees
- Anti-Morsi Fervor Grows Despite Shift in Election Dates
- Will Morsi Face Mubarak's Fate in Egypt?
- Somali Government to Relocate IDPs, Welcome Returning Refugees
- Algeria: Return of the Arab Strongman
- The Challenges Facing Zuma
- The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants
- Delusions of the Anti-War Crowd
- Jihadism in North Africa Gets US Attention
- Rising Insecurity in Northern Kenya
- Tunisians Question Future After Politician's Death
- Libyans Wary of Violence in Tunisia
- Kenya Violence Threatens March Vote
- The Mali Blowback: More to Come?
- Mali a Sign of France's Reset Africa Policy
- Africa to the World: Don't Tell Us Who We Are or What To Do
- The In Amenas Fiasco Throws Cold Water on the Algeria-U.S.-France Love Fest
- The Unspectacular, Unsophisticated Algerian Hostage Crisis
- From Here to Timbuktu
- Relief as Mali Towns Recaptured
- Housing Crisis Causes Disease Threats in Zimbabwe
- A New Take on Land Reform in Zimbabwe
- In Swaziland Child Marriage Still a Grey Area
- Regional Defense Chiefs to Meet Over Mali Crisis
- Mali: After the Intervention
- Why Africa Is Turning to China
- Malawi: Death of a President
- Illegal Migration on the Rise in Somaliland
- Underfunding Leaves Poor Unable to Adapt
- The Expensive, Diminishing Threat of Somali Piracy
- Western Cape Farmworkers Join Strikes in South Africa
- Congo Attempts to Trade Their Way Out of Poverty
- Two Women Unlock Possible Key to HIV Vaccine
- Foreigners Still at Risk of Violent Attacks in South Africa
- African Wheat -- Balancing Consumer and Farmer Demands
(c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.