Page 2 of 2
"We don't want the army to catch him. It's the women who want to arrest him," she says, hoisting her one-year-old niece on a hip and saying, "We even bought a veil for this baby."
Timbuktu still looks mostly deserted, four days after it was liberated from Islamist rule.
The electricity and the phone networks remain cut. At night, the only illumination is the light given off by people's cell phones and the flashlights they have inside shops and hotels.
At the entrance to the town, there is a single checkpoint manned by a few Malian soldiers who flag down entering cars. Each car that is allowed to enter the city at night is signaled by a warning shot fired into the air.
A French armored personnel carrier today stood sentinel in the middle of the city. In the market, over a dozen shops owned by the city's Arab population have been gutted, pillaged by the population because the town's Arab citizens were suspected of having been allied with the Islamists.
Some fear the rebels will try to stage new attacks as the French leave. On Thursday, the Malian military said four soldiers were killed and five others wounded by a land mine on the road to Gao, fueling such fears.
Modibo Traore said the deaths took place in Gossi, a city that had been under rebel control until recently.
However, Moussa Traore, a 26-year-old teacher in Timbuktu, said the sense of freedom already is overwhelming despite the uncertainty.
"We were totally deprived of our liberty. We couldn't listen to music, we couldn't play soccer. We couldn't wear the clothes we wanted. We couldn't hang out with the girls we liked," he said. "Now we can do everything — we can listen to music, we can kick a ball, we can flirt. All I can do is say: Thank you God."
Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Sevare, Mali contributed to this report.