News / Africa

Mali Rebels Merge, Plan to Create Islamic State

Rebels from the militant Islamist sect Ansar Dine in Mali
Rebels from the militant Islamist sect Ansar Dine in Mali
Anne Look
BAMAKO - Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants have joined forces in northern Mali and say they will create an independent Islamist state.  The groups took advantage of a military coup in Bamako to seize control of the territory in early April.   Resistance is growing in the north to the efforts to introduce Islamic law. 

 

In the northern Malian town of Gao, court is in session.

 

Commissioner Abdoulaye Maiga begins by reading from the Quran in the roadside courtyard outside the former police station.

 

Once an area businessman, Maiga is a member of the militant Islamist sect Ansar Dine that residents say dominates the town.

 

This morning, Maiga hears the case of a man accused of letting his animals graze in his neighbors' fields.  The accused confesses, says he has settled previous infractions by bribing authorities.  This time, he promises to compensate his neighbors for damages to their crops.  The deal is accepted.

 

The commissioner hears other cases, including those of two men, one accused of adultery and the other of drunkenness.  No witnesses were called.  A VOA reporter watched as the sentences, 80 lashes each, were carried out on the spot. 

 

Gao is one of three northern strongholds that fell to Tuareg separatists and Islamist militants during the chaos that followed a March 22 military coup in Bamako. 

 

The two groups joined forces in late May and say they will create an independent Islamic state in what is now nearly two-thirds of Mali's national territory.  Ansar Dine is already imposing its brand of Islamic law in the north. 

 

A militant who identified himself as Ibrahim says they do not force anyone to practice Islam.  He says it is Allah that has ordered Islam be practiced and that cannot be done without Sharia and an army to defend it. 

 

Although Islam has long been practiced in the north, residents of Gao are finding the hardline approach tough to accept. 

 

Women must be veiled in public.  Persons of opposite sexes cannot walk together or touch in public.  Militants have closed the city's once lively bars and nightclubs.

 

Violent protests erupted in Gao in mid-May, as frustrated youth tore down militants' flags and marched on the groups' separate headquarters.

 

Youth leader Idrissa Seydou Toure says they grabbed rocks and hunks of wood and marched.  He says the occupiers are squeezing them tighter and tighter.  He says now they cannot even have any fun.  

 

They cannot watch TV or listen to music in the street like before.  He says the south has abandoned them and it is up to northerners to push out the occupiers. 

 

Ansar Dine has ties to al-Qaida's North Africa franchise, al-Qaida of the Islamic Magreb, known as AQIM, whose militants and leaders have been spotted in Gao and other towns since the occupation.  

 

In Gao, Ansar Dine is trying to win over the population.  

 

Militants have given out their phone numbers and come to the aid of residents against attacks by bandits and other armed groups. 

 

Ansar Dine has posted guards outside the reopened hospital in Gao. 

 

Midwife Zemila Isiyaku says they work in difficult conditions, but the people need them.  Everyday, she says, they hear gunshots.  She says it is thanks to Ansar Dine that they are able to work, it keeps them safe. 

 

International human-rights groups say Ansar Dine's crackdown in the north has included summary executions and amputations. 

 

In Gao, town leaders formed an elders' committee to serve as intermediary between the population and occupying forces. 

 

Committee member and teacher Mohammed Ikeratane says they have reached a certain level of stability by taking up problems with militant leaders.  But he says daily conditions are difficult.  

 

He says the town water pump is not working properly.  He also says they only have electricity for five hours a day, and there is not enough gas for the generator. 

 

The United Nations says more than 200,000 Malians have fled the north this year. 

 

In mid-May, Ansar Dine escorted the first convoy of humanitarian aid to reach the occupied territory.  The militants manned machine guns mounted on pickup trucks.  The sect's black flag flapped in the wind as the convoy rolled north. 

 

"Embark on jihad for the sake of God," one militant said in Arabic. 

 

Ansar Dine set the following conditions: all aid must come from Malian Muslims and no international products or agencies are allowed. 

 

Mali's High Islamic Council organized the convoy. 

 

The High Islamic Council's regional secretary in Gao, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, says aid is reassuring, but the real problem of insecurity remains. 

 

West African bloc ECOWAS has offered to deploy regional peacekeepers to Mali.  The nation's military, unable to halt the rebellion in the north earlier this year, is in shambles following the coup.  Analysts say the situation in the north is unlikely to change in the near future. 

Amadou Maiga contributed reporting from Gao, Mali.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs