Misunderstanders of Islam behind coup in Mali. “W. Africa bloc imposes sanctions on Mali post-coup,” by Baba Ahmed and Rukmini Callimachi for the Associated Press, April 2:
BAMAKO, Mali””The head of the body representing West African nations says the bloc is imposing financial sanctions on Mali because the junior officers that seized power in a coup 12 days ago have failed to restore constitutional order.
The Economic Community of West African States held an emergency meeting in the capital of Senegal on Monday. After meeting behind closed doors for several hours, Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara emerged to say that the sanctions, including the closing of Mali’s land borders and the cutting off of the nation’s access to the regional central bank, would go into effect immediately.
Soldiers grabbed control of Mali on March 21. On Sunday, the coup leader said he had reinstated the country’s 1992 constitution and planned to hold elections. He failed, however, to clearly step aside as the regional body had asked.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Residents said on Monday that the ominous black flag of an Islamist rebel faction is now flying over Mali’s fabled city of Timbuktu, which over the weekend became the last major government stronghold in the country’s north to fall to the rebel advance.
The news is a worrying development for Mali, where Tuareg rebels took advantage of chaos sparked by a coup in the distant capital of Bamako late last month to claim the three largest northern towns, including Timbuktu.
Early Monday, a member of the military who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said that he saw a 10-car convoy carrying the rebel Ansar Dine [“Supporters of the Religion’] enter the ancient city, located over 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Bamako. They drove to the Cheikh Fort Sidi Elbakaye military camp in Timbuktu, where they planted their black flag.
The rebellion includes an amalgam of Tuareg groups, including a secular faction and an Islamist wing. In Kidal and Gao, the Islamist faction took the lead early on, and shopkeepers reported that the rebels went from business to business telling merchants to take down pictures deemed un-Islamic. A hairdresser said he was made to take down the photographs he had put up showing different hairstyles because the images showed uncovered women.
On Sunday when the rebels first entered the fabled city of Timbuktu, they were led by the secular National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, which is fighting for an independent homeland for the traditionally nomadic Tuareg people. Their convoy carrying the NMLA flag was seen speeding into town. The arrival of Ansar Dine, the Tuareg Islamist faction, is deeply disturbing to the residents of this city that was once a Lonely Planet hotspot and where much of the economy was based on tourism.…