Timbuktu A Ghost Town As Embattled Rebels Destroy Water, Electricity And History In Fabled City

By iScienceTimes Staff on January 25, 2013 11:02 AM EST

timbuktu a ghost Town
Sites like the historic Sankore Mosque are in danger of being destroyed as fleeing rebels turn Timbuktu into a ghost town. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The fabled city of Timbuktu is a ghost town now after fleeing Islamist rebels abandoned the town, and the equipment supplying water and electricity. Timbuktu is now a ghost town because the rebels were driven out by French military forces who are targeting Islamists in northern Mali. The French attacks destroyed the rebel's fuel supplies, causing the power and water shut-off that has made Timbuktu a ghost town.

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"There is no water. The people have left and the Islamists too. It's a ghost town" municipal official Moctar Ould Kery told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Although the rebels were driven out and turned Tibuktu into a ghost town, one source claims the Islamists are regrouping in Kidal, a region in northeastern Mali. The Islamists, bolstered by al-Qaeda support, suffered another loss during the attack that made Timbuktu a ghost town -- their headquarters. According to reports, French planes bombed a mansion on Sunday night that once belonged to former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and was currently being used as an al-Qaeda command center.

Timbuktu is a ghost town online as well. The website for the Timbuktu Foundation, a historical society that celebrates the town's diverse history as a trading post on the edge of the Sahara, is down. Timbuktu originated as a meeting point in the 11th century for Tuareg tradesmen. By the 14th century the city was conquered and incorporated into the Mali Empire. Situated near the Niger River, Timbuktu evolved into a crucial stopping point for caravans on their trans-Saharan migrations.

Timbuktu was a ghost town for dozens of European explorers who lost their lives trying to find the fabled city, and its riches, in the late 18th and early 19th century. The first European to reach Timbuktu, Alexander Gordon Laing, didn't make it very far after leaving the city. He was murdered two days after verifying that Timbuktu was not a ghost town, but in fact was the home of Tuareg nomads who did not want Europeans meddling in their affairs.

Today, Timbuktu is a ghost town for real. In addition to the lack of water and electricity, the Islamist rebels reportedly razed a number of historic sites as they battled and looted their way across the town. Now that a war has made Timbuktu a ghost town, the real question for displaced residents is how long will Timbuktu be a ghost town and whether or not it will ever be the same.

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