On the verge of an Uprising
The Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has been very active in northern Mali since 2006, tracing its provenance to the Algerian civil war in 1990. Their aim is to spread Islamic law and jihad across West Africa. It is believed that the group has between 600 and 800 fighters scattered around western Africa and Europe. They have been held responsible for innumerous bombings and kidnappings thru out the region. The Sahara is thought to be their drug trafficking ground, from where they are able to finance all their activities.
AQIM has initially aided the semi-nomadic Tuaregs, an ethnic minority which has been historically deprived of their rights. Because of their great expertise in the desert, they play great part in the drug trafficking scheme. And in 2012, they launched a rebellion against Mali’s government forces, taking control of the north of the country.
A week prior to our arrival in Timbuktu, in December of 2011, 3 Europeans had been kidnapped and one German killed. The region was on the verge of a revolution. Today, a severe brand of sharia law has been implemented, and according to the UN, the jihadist influx has been especially brutal to the women, many of whom have been raped, or forced into marriage and prostitution.