Timbuktu, Mali -
Hundreds of Malians looted stores in Timbuktu on Tuesday, saying the shops belonged to “Arabs” and “terrorists” linked to the radical Islamists who occupied the desert town for 10 months.
The angry crowd plundered stores they told AFP belonged to Arabs, Mauritanians and Algerians who they say supported the al-Qaeda-linked Islamists who retreated from the fabled town ahead of its recapture by French-led troops on Monday.
An AFP journalist witnessed the looters finding arms and military communications equipment in some of the shops.
However most of the residents of the impoverished town on the edge of the Sahara desert, hit by food and water shortages, seized whatever they could get their hands on: televisions, satellites, food and furniture.
Some fought amongst each other for items while others smashed in shop doors, emptying them within minutes.
In the suburb of Abaradjou, a man living in a former bank converted by the Islamists into a “committee of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice”, was dragged out by a hysterical crowd who then pillaged the building, taking even office chairs.
The bearded middle-aged man was arrested by Malian troops who were in the town after French soldiers who lead the offensive withdrew into the suburbs.
“He is an Islamist”, one solder said, as troops turned their weapons toward the crowd to prevent them from lynching the man. The mob yelled: “He is not from here, he is a terrorist!”
Malian soldiers put an end to the looting in the middle of the morning.
“We will not let people pillage. But it is true that weapons were found in some shops,” an officer said on condition of anonymity.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday urged the Malian authorities to protect light-skinned citizens from reprisal attacks from the population, as ethnic tensions rise between Tuaregs and Arabs, and black Malians. - Sapa-AFP