Some towns in northern Mali, including Timbuktu and Gao, have been freed from rebels who had taken over the area last April. About a month ago, the French troops started helping the Malian army to regain these towns, and are still engaged in fighting the rebels in parts of northern Mali. The rebels who had taken over Timbuktu enforced some very strict laws. Music could not be played. Women and men could not hang out together outside their homes. Women could not wear brightly colored clothes and had to cover themselves with a veil when outside their homes. The rebels destroyed some of Timbuktu’s ancient sites and burned some very old and precious manuscripts. Timbuktu is believed to have been founded in the 12th century. The town was one of the world’s leading centers of both trade and academics from the 14th to the 16th century. There are over 50 private libraries in the town with thousands of manuscripts. These manuscripts are considered treasures of Timbuktu. Many of these manuscripts were buried in the desert by the town’s residents to protect them when the rebels took over in April.
Why are the French troops there? Mali was a French colony and gained its independence in 1960. The government of Mali had asked France for help.
Did you know? Timbuktu is most known today for its use in the English language to indicate a far away place. One of Oxford dictionary’s usage of Timbuktu is “reference to a remote or extremely distant place”.