Rebels in Mali destroy Timbuktu monuments

Updated 24 December 2012
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Rebels in Mali destroy Timbuktu monuments

BAMAKO, Mali: A tourism official says that militants destroyed four mausoleums in Timbuktu yesterday.
The director of Mali's Timbuktu tourism office, Sane Chirfi, said that Ansar Dine rebels linked to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) tore down the mausoleums, which were historic but not included on the United Nations list of World Heritage sites. The mausoleums housed the remains of Muslim scholars and teachers who are revered by the Timbuktu population.
Since taking control of Timbuktu earlier this year, the militants have destroyed seven of the 16 mausoleums listed as world heritage sites. Some date back to the 14th century.
According to many residents, the destruction of the graves is the rebels' reaction to the recent UN resolution calling for an international military intervention to remove the rebels from northern Mali.
Meanwhile, militants in northern Mali said Saturday they have carried out fresh amputations and warned of more to come, just days after the UN approved plans for an African-led military intervention force to take back the region.
The amputations were seen as a sign the armed rebel groups which seized the north of the west African state earlier this year are unfazed by the green-light for the operation, which planners say cannot be launched before September next year.
"We cut off the hands of two people on Friday. Eight others will soon share the same fate," said Moctar Barry, a leader of the rebel group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), controlling the northern city of Gao.
His claims were confirmed by witnesses, with one resident saying the amputees had committed theft.
"I saw one of them, they gave him an injection before the amputation. He cried out. Both amputees are now at the hospital," another resident told AFP.
Gao lawmaker Abdou Sidibe blamed the amputations on "the international community's laxness," saying its indecision over whether to intervene to reconquer Mali's north were making the rebels feel invincible.
"The international community needs to know that it is its hesitation over intervening, or no, in northern Mali that is encouraging the rebels to show they are at home and are not afraid of anything," Sidibe said.
The amputations took place a day after the Security Council approved plans for the African-led 3,300 troop intervention but vowed to work toward a peaceful solution for the Mali crisis.
Al-Qaeda linked groups and other militants have been controlling regions in northern Mali for months, in a conflict that has so far displaced more than 400,000 people, according to the UN.

Algeria, a military power player in the Sahel, has called for a political solution to the Mali crisis, a position also backed by the United Nations.
On Friday, the 15-member Security Council insisted that military force could only be used after political efforts have been exhausted.
FROM: AGENCIES


Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.