A girl who fled northern Mali rests her head against a tree at a camp for internally displaced persons in Sevare. Photo: AFP
RADICAL Islamists have left Timbuktu in northern Mali, turning it into a ‘‘ghost town’’ with no electricity or drinking water for three days, residents and officials say.
‘‘There is no water. The people have left and the Islamists too. It’s a ghost town,’’ said municipal official Moctar Ould Kery.
A resident said for three days there had been no power or drinkable water, amid a French-led military campaign to oust the Islamist groups who seized control of northern Mali in April 2012.
A regional security source said the Islamists were ‘‘regrouping in the region of Kidal’’, in Mali’s far north-east.
The Islamists kept the electricity and water running with generators but their departure left a vacuum, especially as their fuel stocks had been destroyed in French air raids.
French planes on Sunday night bombed a major base of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) near Timbuktu, destroying a mansion belonging to Libya’s slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi which was being used by Islamist radicals as their headquarters.
A fabled caravan town on the edge of the Sahara desert, Timbuktu - 900 kilometres from Mali’s capital Bamako - was for centuries a key centre of Islamic learning and has become a byword for exotic remoteness in the Western imagination.
Today Timbuktu is a battlefield, overrun by militants who have been razing its world heritage-listed religious sites in a move that the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO deplored as ‘‘tragic’’.