French Troops Near Historic Mali City of Timbuktu

Fear French Invasion Will Do Massive Damage to Historic City

by Jason Ditz, January 27, 2013

French invasion forces took the central Mali city of Gao, as well as the town of Konna, though Konna appears to have been virtually destroyed in their bombardment, with many civilians killed. Forces are now setting their sights on the ancient Mali imperial capital of Timbuktu.

French officials expressed confidence that their offensive was progressing well, though officials conceded that it might be several days before the city actually falls under their attack.

The French strategy in Konna was to bomb every building of any serious size and to attack any vehicles that attempted to flee the town, assuming they must be rebels. That holds concerns not just for Timbuktu’s civilian population, much of which fled before the French invasion began, but for the ancient city’s archaeological treasures.

“Whenever you see military intervention things are bound to get destroyed,” noted the director of the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project, an attempt to save irreplaceable documents in the city.

The Islamist rebels had damaged certain of the ancient buildings in Timbuktu, particularly those associated with pre-Islamic religious worship in the region. This could look like small potatoes, however, when French warplanes get done with the city.

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