The Tragedy of Timbuktu
Reports are coming through of Ansar Al Din, the armed Islamist group now in control of much of Northern Mali, having begun the total destruction of 16 UNESCO world heritage sites in Timbuktu. All the sites are ancient mausolea.
As I set out three months ago, this at least partially the fault of David Cameron and his Boys’ Own Adventure in Libya.
The chaos now enveloping Northern Mali has a fairly complex history, and it’s biggest trigger was the March coup in Mali itself, which led to military weakness in the Northern areas quickly exploited by a mix of Islamist and Touareg groups intent on seccession and/or the imposition of Sharia law. But
there seems little doubt that a key contributing factor was the retreat from Libya of heavily armed mercenaries, no longer in the payroll of Ghadaffi.
Just as in Iraq eight years previously, the British government and its allies appear to have completely failed to plan for the possible knock-on effects of Ghadaffi’s downfall – the existence of mercenaries recruited from southern neigbours was hardly unknown, after all. And just as eight years ago, a whole region is being stabilised by a British prime minister’s desire to play the international hero.
I’m not even sure if Hague or Cameron know where Timbuktu is, never mind anything of its importance as a cultural site. But this weekend, they should be feeling guilty about the irreversable damage they are partly responsible for.