Çar. Eyl 27th, 2023

The ancient city of Timbuktu in northern Mali has been under siege by Jamaat Nusra al-Islam and Muslim for about a month.

The ancient city of Timbuktu, in the north of the West African country Mali, has been under siege by Jamaat Nusra al-Islam ve Muslim (JNIM), the branch of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) responsible for the Sahel, for about a month. The city in the south of the Sahara Desert, which is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is known for its iconic adobe structures and priceless manuscripts.

JNIM’s dominance in the region began when the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) evacuated its camps in the country at the request of its management. MINUSMA’s evacuation of the Ber camp, approximately 50 kilometers east of Timbuktu, at the beginning of August and handing it over to the Malian army pitted the army against the former rebel groups that laid down their arms with the 2015 Algiers Agreement. While the clashes continued between the army and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), which was formed by groups that laid down their arms, JNIM announced that it had “declared war on the Malian army, which called Wagner mercenaries to the country” and blockaded Timbuktu.


At least 35 thousand people have left the city, where air and land transportation has stopped since the beginning of the siege. Due to the tension caused by the blockade in the region, on September 7, 49 passengers died on the passenger ferry that was attacked by JNIM’s rockets while making the Timbuktu-Bamako voyage on the Niger River. On September 11, Sky Mali, the only airline company operating flights to Timbuktu, announced that it suspended flights due to 3 artillery shells hitting the area near Timbuktu Airport.


Timbuktu, which was considered the center of Africa opening to the world in the 15th and 16th centuries and was likened to the “pearl of the desert” in this respect, went through a similar process about 10 years ago. After then-President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown by a coup in 2012, the National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA) and the Al Qaeda-linked Ansaruddin organization also captured Timbuktu. The groups that took the city under their control destroyed many historical monuments under UNESCO protection. Jihadist groups attempted to burn manuscripts that had managed to be preserved for centuries, claiming that they were “pagan tradition”, and approximately 400 thousand manuscripts from 45 different libraries in the city were secretly transported by the authorities to the capital Bamako, 1000 kilometers away. Experts are of the opinion that 95 percent of the manuscripts in the city were saved as a result of these efforts. Timbuktu became the gathering center of African salt and gold merchants in the 15th and 16th centuries thanks to its geographical location, and the gold extracted from the region was transported across the desert to North Africa and then to Europe. It was also nicknamed the “golden city” when it was delivered to Istanbul.