Timbuktu, Mali’s sacred city, falls victim to Islamist insurgents
Until a few weeks ago, Al Farouk, the patron djinn of Timbuktu, protected the ancient city in northern Mali. For centuries, from astride a winged horse in center of the city, the stone genie kept watch over the houses so that children didn’t sneak out at night. Legend had it that if Al Farouk caught you getting up to anything naughty, he’d warn you the first two times. If he nabbed you a third time, you’d disappear forever.
Now Al Farouk has disappeared. On June 30, days after UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, placed the city of Timbuktu on its list of endangered historical sites, Al Farouk’s statue was beheaded by a man called Abu Zaar. “People thought Al Farouk was the saint protector of the city,” he told French television. Abu Zaar belongs to Ansar al Dine, Defenders of the Faith, a militant group that recently seized control of Northern Mali and has aligned itself with Al Qaeda’s main franchise in Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Abu Zaar said, “There’s only one protector. That’s us.”
Eliza Griswold — “What The Islamist Takeover of Northern Mali Really Means”