London: Islamic extremists in northern Mali are facing a growing uprising from local residents as they impose the strict Sharia law and seek to destroy the local culture in the northern region of the African country.
Part of the vast area of the country, near Timbuktu, which is under the control of Islamic groups, youths have been taking to the streets to protest against rebel control.
“The youths are marching, they are taking up arms, they are using whatever weapons they can find. They are protesting against the destruction of our culture, the arrest and abuse of our local residents,” The Guardian quoted Halle Ousmane Cissé, the Mayor of Timbuktu, as saying.
Residents in towns and cities in northern Mali have expressed fury at the arrival of Islamic fighters, from countries such as Algeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who have imposed a strict interpretation of Sharia law and have conducted public whippings.
In Timbuktu, a world heritage site due to its ancient mosque and shrines to Muslim saints, half of the mausoleums and tombs are estimated are reported to have been demolished.
“The woman was at a pump to get water, her baby on her back. Members of Ansar Dine were passing by and started to whip her because her scarf was down around her neck and not on her head,” said Alassane Cissé, 47, a school director and Goundam resident.
Young Malians are becoming increasingly mobilised by the rebel takeover of the north of the country, saying they want to take up arms and repel extremists from Mali, which is known for its tolerant, Sufi Muslim practices.
The presence of armed groups of youths comes as the Malian Army, which seized power earlier this year in a military coup.