Persecution of Non-Muslims (Mali)

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Note that the persecution of apostates and the persecution of homosexuals are covered in separate pages

2 Swiss, a German and a Briton attending a "Nomad culture" festival are kidnapped by tribesmen and handed over to Islamists. 1 Swiss and German released, 60 year old Briton beheaded and 1 Swiss still in captivity

The issue of Britons being taken hostage is currently a matter of particular sensitivity after a Briton taken prisoner in Mali, in west Africa, by Tuareg tribesmen was handed over to Islamists and beheaded. The group Al-Qa'ida in Islamic Maghreb said it had carried out the murder after the refusal of the British government to release Abu Qatada – a terror suspect who had been described as bin Laden's representative in Europe. In 1998 three Britons and an Australian were killed in Yemen during an attempt by government forces to rescue them from Islamist captors. Abu Hamza, the radical British based fundamentalist cleric now awaiting extradition to the US, was accused by the Yemeni authorities of providing aid for the Islamists. His son, Mohammed Mustapha Kemal, was later imprisoned for three years in Sanaa on terrorism charges.
It is believed Mr Dyer and the ­other tourists – two Swiss and a German – were kidnapped by local tribesman who then sold them to the ­terror group which operates out of Algeria.

Officials had been involved in ­negotiations with the group, but while other countries are understood to have paid ransoms, the British Government policy is not to make “substantive concessions” to any ­kidnappers.

Mr Dyer had been on an organised trip with German tour company Oase Reisen, visiting the Anderamboukane festival on nomad culture in Mali when he and three other travellers were kidnapped.

The local tribesmen who attacked them shot out the tyres of their car forcing it to stop before leading the group away at gunpoint.

It is likely they were then sold to AQIM who subjected the group to a so-called “show execution”, shooting just inches from one of their heads in order to emphasise the helplessness of their plight.

Ransoms and political demands were made, sparking a period of intense diplomatic negotiation,

In April the group released two of the hostages, Marianne Petzold from Germany and Gabriella Greitner from Switzerland, along with a Canadian diplomat and his assistant taken in a separate kidnapping.

Their captors claimed they were exchanged for four of their imprisoned fighters but terrorism experts in the region suggest it is more likely money was paid to the group. One security expert, who has experience with groups operating out of Algeria, said: “It is all about money. The Canadians were released because AQIM got money it asked for.”

One Swiss hostage, Werner Griener, remains in captivity.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: “Our immediate thoughts are with Mr Dyer’s family.

“This is a terrible moment for them. The tragic news is despite the strenuous efforts of the UK team here and in Mali.”

Christians flee as Islamists put Timbuktu under Shari'ah law, say women must be covered at all times and adulterers will be stoned. They destroy bars and force shopkeepers to take down pictures of unveiled women

The rebel group that recently seized control of Mali's three main northern cities, in a maneuver that effectively partitioned the country in two, announced a cease-fire Thursday, saying they had reached their military goal.
. . .

Assarid's group is the largest rebel group involved in the offensive, but it is not the only one, and in the three main towns in the north, local officials say they cannot be sure which of the rebel armies has the upper hand. Extremely worrying for Western observers is the presence of an Islamist faction called Ansar Dine, which planted its ominous black flag in all three of the provincial capitals. This week, the group announced it was imposing Sharia law in the ancient city of Timbuktu.

The mayor of Timbuktu said nearly all of the estimated 300 Christians based in the city fled after Ansar Dine's spiritual chief Iyad Ag Ghali gave an interview on local radio outlining the tenets of Sharia law: Women are to be covered at all times, thieves will have their hands cut off and adulterers will be stoned.
. . .

The imposition of Sharia has worried analysts and country watchers. Besides Timbuktu, the Ansar Dine faction is accused of destroying bars in Gao and Kidal, and of forcing shopkeepers in those two towns to take down pictures of unveiled women.
Mali rebels declare cease-fire after northern push
Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press, April 5, 2012

Islamists create hit-list of Christians they intend to execute, one Christian leader already beheaded and churches in Gao have been completely demolished

A Christian leader has been beheaded and others are being threatened with similar treatment as Islamic militants run amok in Mali, West Africa.

Christians have fled the town of Timbuktu in the north of the country where harsh Sharia Law has already been imposed amid reports that churches in Gao, 200 miles to the east, have been completely destroyed.

The news comes in the wake of a military coup in the country, one of the effects of which is that sanctions applied from outside has cut off electricity supplies, further delaying reports of the latest upheavals along with desperate pleas for help.

Among those affected is British Bible college graduate Timothee (Tim) Yattara, who recently returned home to his home country in a bid to help spread the gospel in this remote – and now dangerous – part of Africa located on the edge of the Sahara.

Tim has fled with his family to Bamako, the country’s main city some 400 miles away in the south-west, but without the money to rent a house.

“We have escaped in the wake of horrible death threats as the Islamists have a list of all the Christians in Timbuktu whom they intend to execute by beheading. As proof of their intentions, one leader has already been killed in this way and some churches in Gao have been demolished. Most Christians have already fled for safety, but Sharia Law has been imposed all over the north.

“As refugees in Bamako, life is very difficult for me and my family as we are in desperate need of finance, just to pay for shelter and safety,” he said.

Already suffering famine through drought, Mali is being terrorized by Al Qaida and associated rebels said to be claiming the northern part of the territory as their homeland.

Only last week we were reporting that Timbuktu was surrounded by tents inhabited by impoverished people who have fled the countryside in the wake of the spreading famine, exacerbated by rising unemployment and massive inflation with many struggling to find food and work.

And with a government now overthrown by a coup, the security situation has been made even worse by rebels from Libya loyal to their former leader Col Gaddafi.
Christian leader beheaded as Islamists terrorize Mali
Charles Gardner, ASSIST News, April 7, 2012

Armed 'Allahu Akbar' shouting Muslims kidnap a Swiss Christian missionary from her home in Timbuktu

A Swiss woman has been abducted in the rebel-held northern Malian city of Timbuktu, officials and residents say.

The woman, a Christian missionary in her 40s called Beatrice, was taken from her house by armed men, residents said.

Most foreigners fled Timbuktu after Tuareg and Islamist rebels seized the town early this month in the aftermath of a military coup.

The kidnap comes amid concern the area could offer a safe haven to an al-Qaeda branch operating in the country.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), the network's North African wing, has links to the Islamist rebels. The group is already holding 13 Westerners.

"Beatrice, a Swiss national, was abducted this Sunday at Timbuktu by armed men," local official Mohamed Ould Hassen told AFP.

One resident of the town told the news agency that they saw six armed men take the woman.

"They shouted 'Allah Akbar' [God is great]," the resident added.

The Swiss foreign ministry has confirmed the abduction. It said Swiss officials are working with the Malian authorities on the case.

Since 2009, Switzerland has advised against travel to Mali, citing the risk of kidnap. After the coup that toppled the Malian president last month, it advised all Swiss nationals in Mali to leave the country temporarily.

Sources cited by Reuters said the woman, who stayed in the Abaradjou neighbourhood, had lived in Timbuktu for some years and knew several local languages.

House-to-house searches undertaken in "religious ethnic cleansing" of Christians from Northern Mali, many killed, others severely injured. Mali becomes the 7th most dangerous country for Christians

pepper of gunfire continues to play back and forth between Islamic rebels in Mali’s north and the Mali army in the south.

On Wednesday, Mali’s military attacked the rebel Islamic group called Ansar Dine with heavy weapons along the north-south dividing line, according to Mali officials. Rebels boasted of capturing soldiers in the attack.

Earlier on Tuesday, Islamist fighters reportedly pushed toward Mopti--the last government-controlled city in the north--and the army held them off with “warning shots.”

Peace talks were scheduled between the Mali government and Ansar Dine group members in the neighboring country of Burkina Faso on Thursday. The potential for rebel forces in the northern territory--an area the size of France--to push south is troubling. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said to BBC News, “Obviously we are very concerned about the situation, and the development of essentially an entire terrorist region is of grave concern to everybody in the international community.”

While most of the world is fixated on radical Islamic presence in countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, Mali has kept a low profile. Muslim extremists didn’t rise up until March 2012 in a coup that led to their north takeover. The Taureg insurgents wanted to make their own country in the north.

Paul Estabrooks with Open Doors USA says, “The first thing they did was a kind of religious ethnic cleansing. They began to do house-to-house searches. They literally warned Christians that if they didn’t get out of this new country in the north part of Mali, they would kill them--and they weren’t joking. Many Christians were killed; others were injured severely.”

The Open Doors World Watch List tracks the top 50 countries that carry out persecution of Christians and restrict religious freedom. When the 2013 World Watch List was released January 8, the results for Mali were shocking.

According to Estabrooks, “Mali was not even on the World Watch List last year, and because of all the challenges there, [Mali] has suddenly jumped to 7th place out of 50 countries. It is a significant factor.”

Members of the group Ansar Dine are applying Islamic law in their north region, even punishing moderate Muslims. There have been reports of public amputations, executions, and whippings. Several people fled to neighboring countries and are living in refugee camps...
Mali rebels push government region
Mission Network News, January 11, 2013