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AQIM leader named Timbuktu governor

By Bakari Guèye for Magharebia in Nouakchott - 16/04/12

Al-Qaeda and Islamists are working together to implement their own plan for the future of Timbuktu. Malians will have a new governor for the region, without ever casting a vote.

Ansar al-Din (Supporters of the Faith) reportedly plans to install Algerian national and al-Qaeda emir Yahya Abou Al-Hammam (real name Jemal Oukacha) as the local governor. Al-Hammam has lived in the region for several years, local sources said.

The governor appointment is part of the Islamists' partnership with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Upon the fall of the northern Malian city to Islamists and al-Qaeds fighters, Iyad Ag Ghaly, the Touareg founder of Ansar al-Din, called on those living in Timbuktu to help him institute sharia law.

"The Mujahideen and Ansar Al-Din have committed themselves to introducing Sharia law. One of our main ways of imposing the religion is to fight all those who reject Sharia law." He is getting help with his sharia strategy from some of the top AQIM figures.

On April 3rd, AQIM leaders Mokhtar Belmokhtar (aka "Laaouar"), Abou Zeid, and Yahya Abou Al-Hammam joined Ag Ghaly for "a meeting with the city's imams", said Cheikh El Bakaye, a family member of one of the clerics involved in the talks.

"Yes, all three of them are there. Abou Zeid has said he is happy to be on Mali's Muslim soil," El Bakaye said.

They have turned the former Malian army camp at Timbuktu into their "base", according to a Malian army officer. The majority of the thirteen western hostages being held in the Sahel, six of whom are French, were abducted by these three men.

According to Mohamed Askia, a Timbuktu resident, they claimed they came to congratulate "their brothers from Ansar al-Din" and to lend their support in enforcing Islamic Sharia law.

They have said that they are there to re-establish order and to clamp down on those behind the looting which took place on the first day. According to a source in Timbuktu, they have managed to recover some looted goods and arrested those elements attempting to steal water pumps and loot local businesses.

In Timbuktu, concern grew the day after an operation by Islamists from the armed Ansar al-Din movement, supported by AQIM, who took control of the most important historic manuscript centre in Timbuktu, which is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

According to a Burkinabe source, on April 10th a delegation of Burkinabe and Mauritanian envoys, accompanied by two military experts, arrived in Gao to talk to the MNLA. The aim was to convince Touareg secessionists that the partition of Mali would be theirs in exchange for a massive clean-up.

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