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Looters Go on Rampage in Timbuktu

Malian troops try to dissuade the crowd from looting shops in Timbuktu, Jan. 29, 2013. Hundreds of Malians looted Arab-owned shops Tuesday in Mali's fabled Timbuktu, newly freed from Islamists.
Residents of the newly liberated Malian city of Timbuktu looted stores owned by Arabs and Tuaregs suspected of collaborating with Islamist militants who fled earlier this week.

Witnesses say Malian soldiers stood by while people stole almost everything they could lift up and carry. The occupiers had imposed strict Islamic law in the city, including a dress code and a ban on music.

While ethnic Tuareg fighters were part of one of the Islamist groups that seized control of northern Mali last year, secular Tuareg rebels -- who have been fighting for a homeland in Mali -- said Tuesday they support the French military operation.

Also Tuesday, French and Malian forces went on a house-to-house search in Timbuktu and Gao. They recovered weapons and explosives left by the Islamists. At least five suspected collaborators were arrested in Gao.

​French troops entered Mali two weeks ago when the Islamists began moving towards the capital, Bamako.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday that France will stay in Mali as long as necessary. But there are already plans for an African-led force to take over peacekeeping duties.

International donors have already pledged $455 million for a peacekeeping mission expected to cost as much as $1 billion.

Also Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France wants international monitors sent to Mali as quickly as possible to ensure that human rights are respected.