Timbuktu is an ancient historical city in the northern part of the Republic of Mali.
The city has special symbolism, being one of several major cities that were initially controlled by rebels, only to return and be controlled by fighters belonging to terrorist groups after 2012, and then ended in 2013 to be controlled by French and Malian forces.
Officials in Timbuktu launched a distress call to save it from the brunt of the siege of a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda two weeks ago.
UN peacekeepers also complained of difficulties in implementing the second phase of their withdrawal from the African country.
The security vacuum left behind tempts Nusrat al-Islam group and other militant groups to seek to make Timbuktu the capital of their future emirate.
This is due to the city’s large area and strategic importance in West Africa.
By controlling Timbuktu these groups can control the border ports with Algeria in the north and Mauritania in the west.
They can also control the eastern border with Burkina Faso and Niger.
Timbuktu is listed on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The head of the city has revealed that the terrorist siege imposed by the militants on it led to a shortage of food, which portends a deterioration of the security situation in the northern part of Mali.
During 2022, terrorist operations escalated in the city, against the background of loyalty by some local groups to ISIS and al-Qaeda.
This especially happened after the exit of French troops from Mali.
The leader of Nusrat al-Islam, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda, posted a video earlier, in which he declared war on the Timbuktu region.
The city’s residents said a group loyal to al-Qaeda has been blocking roads that lead to Timbuktu since August 13, 2023, cutting off food supplies and humanitarian aid to the remote city of about 35,000 people, whose economy has been damaged by years of violence.
The UN Security Council decided to end the peacekeeping mission in Mali on June 30, 2023 and withdraw 13,000 army and police personnel by December 31, 2023, according to a complex and unprecedented schedule.
According to the head of the UN mission in Mali, there is still time to switch to the right track to finish the mission in December 2023.
He said so far, 1,096 soldiers have been returned to their countries.
However, difficulties have appeared in the implementation of the first phase of the withdrawal plan, which ended Friday with the closure of a fourth base, in the north-eastern part of the country.