Bamako: Dozen of Algerian jihadists have arrived in the Malian city of Timbuktu to support armed Islamist groups who are imposing an increasingly brutal version of sharia law in the vast northern areas under their control, security sources said Sunday.
According to media reports, a regional security source told AFP that dozens of Algerian jihadists arrived in Timbuktu this weekend to reinforce the AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) camp.
He said that the fabled city of Timbuktu was “increasingly becoming the headquarters of AQIM in northern Mali.”
Regional security sources said that in early November, dozens of young Europeans and Africans living in Europe had also attempted to join the Islamists in northern Mali.
On Friday a suspected French jihadist was arrested on the border between Mauritania and an area of northern Mali.
“The arrival of more and more Islamist reinforcements” is to be expected, a Malian security source said on Sunday.
Once one of west Africa’s more stable democracies, Mali rapidly imploded after the coup in March ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure’s regime.
Angry soldiers seized power after being overwhelmed by a Tuareg separatist rebellion in the north.
However the coup left a vacuum which made the northern cities easy prey to a ragtag group of Tuareg nomads — who feel historically disenfranchised and demand independence — and their Islamist allies.
Islamists backed by the regional Al-Qaeda franchise soon seized full control, ousting the more secular Tuareg to pursue their goal of running the region according to a severe form of sharia law.