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Timbuktu residents say 'Thank you God' that rebel Islamists are gone (+video)

Under watch of French soldiers, inhabitants of the ancient crossroads city turn on the radio, and start to breathe the freer air.

TIMBUKTU, Mali (AFP) - As French troops on Wednesday entered Kidal, the last Islamist bastion in Mali's north after a whirlwind Paris-led offensive, French soldiers reinforced their positions around Timbuktu's airport.
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A leaflet listing the regulations for women under militant Islamic rule now lies in dirt here at the tribunal in Timbuktu. Rule No. 1: The veil should cover the entire body. Rule No. 4: The veil cannot be colored. And Rule No. 8: The woman should not perfume herself after putting on the all-enveloping fabric.

Several days after French special forces parachuted in and liberated this storied city, there is a growing sense of freedom. In a number of houses situated across from where the rebels held their harsh religious tribunals, many of the girls under 10 are still wearing the head covering.

"It is out of fear of the Islamists that they still wear this, says Diahara Adjanga, the mother of one girl. "They hit everyone, even children."

The rebels seized control of Timbuktu and the other northern provincial capitals of Gao and Kidal last April. During the nearly 10 months of their rule, the Al Qaeda-linked extremists imposed harsh laws for women and publicly whipped those who went in public without veils.

Across northern Mali, a couple accused of adultery was stoned to death and hands of those accused of being thieves were amputated in actions reminiscent of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The French military launched an intervention to oust the Islamists from power in northern Mali on Jan. 11 and rapidly forced their retreats from the major towns in less than three weeks' time.

Fatouma Traore, 21, remembers one commander who was especially brutal to the women in Timbuktu.


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