let's go to Mali

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In a normal December, the streets of Timbuktu are crawling with Western tourists. They take tours of the local libraries full of 12th-century manuscripts, ride camels into the desert to spend the night under the stars, and in early January, attend the Festival au Desert, a kind of Saharan Woodstock, where Tuareg and Malian guitarists trade blues riffs that would bring a smile to the face of John Lee Hooker….But this past December was no normal one. A series of kidnappings of Western tourists and aid workers – claimed by a group calling itself Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – has prompted most Western embassies in Bamako to urge Western tourists to stay away from northern Mali this year.

The festival, which opened Thursday, was moved from its usual expansive Saharan desert locale of Essakane to the outskirts of Timbuktu for safety concerns. But that hasn’t eased all fears. France issued a warning on Wednesday advising its citizens not to attend – to the consternation of Mali, which says it has ensured the festival’s safety, according to the BBC.

“You know that the Bronx is more dangerous than Timbuktu,” says Manny Ansar, the head organizer for the Festival au Desert who is based in Timbuktu. “My problem is that I can’t say there is no Al Qaeda in northern Mali, because Al Qaeda is everywhere. They do their attacks in London, in New York City, in India, in Spain, but nobody says don’t go to Madrid or London because of Al Qaeda. Why only to us?”

jergins, Saturday, 9 January 2010 02:04 (twelve years ago) link

two months pass...

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