Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bodies at Timbuktu Show Reprisals; Two Missing Arab Men Arrested by Malian Soldiers Are Found Buried in Dune

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bodies at Timbuktu Show Reprisals; Two Missing Arab Men Arrested by Malian Soldiers Are Found Buried in Dune

Article excerpt

TIMBUKTU, MALI The bodies are buried here, in the side of a dune less than a mile outside this desert capital, dumped out of sight in an uninhabited and forgotten zone.

But the wind undressed the grave.

It threw off the blanket of yellow sand to reveal a white piece of clothing. Soon the children of the shepherds who spend their days roaming the dunes with their flocks began talking about the two men buried there.

By the time journalists were led to the shallow grave 11 days after the two were last seen, the desert dwellers knew their entire biography: their names, their professions, the fact that they had been arrested by Malian soldiers on the same day that the French took control of Timbuktu from Islamic extremists. Most importantly, they knew their ethnic group both were Arab.

Their deaths, as pieced together by The Associated Press from interviews with family members, residents and witnesses, as well as from an examination of the bodies, strongly suggest the two were taken away and shot dead by Malian forces, in reprisal against the citys Arab minority.

Ever since al-Qaida-linked extremists seized control of Malis northern half last year, the worlds other nations have discussed launching a military intervention to free the occupied territory.

For nearly as long, the United Nations and the United States have urged caution, in part over worries that Malis abuse-prone military could carry out acts of revenge against the ethnic minorities associated with the extremists including Arabs.

Despite these warnings, France unilaterally launched a military operation a month ago to take back the north, after the al-Qaida- linked fighters began pushing southward. The French swept through northern villages and towns, accompanied by Malian army troops, and liberated Timbuktu on Jan. 28.

It was about 10 that morning, as French troops in armored personnel carriers were still basking in the cheers of the crowds welcoming them, that Malian soldiers in pickups sped up to the Nour El-Moubin Madrassa, a Quranic school. …

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