Tuareg face ethnic cleansing across Sahara
We noted in September, after the fall of Moammar Qaddafi, that hundreds of Tuareg were being forced to flee into Algeria by Arab militias in the western Libyan town of Ghadames. This exodus apparently continues. More than 55 Tuareg crossed over into Algerian territory in the last two days for fear of reprisals by armed groups, according to Algeria's El-Khabar newspaper May 24. The Ghadames tribe, which is backed by forces affiliated with the National Transitional Council, is said to carrying out attacks on local Tuareg families and businesses, putting stores and stables to the torch. According to the refugees, many Tuareg were subjected to "illegal" detention at secret locations under inhumane conditions. They added that members of the Ghadames tribes are searching for Tuareg members everywhere, even in hospitals, to abduct, abuse or kill them. A large number have been illegally arrested, including women. (Al-Monitor, May 24)
Meanwhile, since Tuareg rebels have declared independence in northern Mali, ethnic Tuaregs have been subject to reprisals in Bamako and elsewhere in government-controlled southern Mali, with similar stories of arson attacks on homes, stores and cars. Some have fled to refugee camps in Mauritania. The most bitter irony is that northern Mali—declared independent under the name of Azawad by the Tuareg rebels—is clearly not a safe haven for Tuareg either. Many more Tuareg have fled from the north into Mauritania—at least 60,000 at the makeshift desert camp at Mbera. They are presumably fleeing fighting between the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Islamist factions such as Ansar Dine.
Reports of actual conditions in northern Mali remain sketchy at best, with media and aid agencies both effectively barred from the vast breakaway region. Aid agencies are apparently still debating how or whether to negotiate with the MNLA, Ansar Dine, and other factions for access to the territory. (BBC News, May 17; IRIN, May 1)