UK & World News
Mali: Angry Looters Hit Timbuktu's Streets
Crowds of looters have taken to the streets of Timbuktu in Mali after it was liberated of Islamists, raiding the homes and businesses of suspected jihadist supporters.
The angry crowd plundered shops they said belonged to Arabs, Mauritanians and Algerians who they accuse of supporting the Al Qaeda-linked radicals during their 10-month rule over the ancient city.
Speaking from Timbuktu, which was taken by French forces on Monday, Sky News Special Correspondent Alex Crawford said: "This is months and months of frustration and repression finally erupting and there's no one here to police these people."
Crawford has spoken to residents who suffered beatings under Islamic police when the militants ruled, including one woman who was flogged for talking to a man unrelated to her.
Her brother was shot and killed by the militants days before the French troops arrived.
Others had their hands amputated in public for supporting the government of Mali, Crawford reports.
It comes amid concern in the UK about plans to send hundreds of British troops to aid the French-led mission in Mali.
Up to 200 British military personnel could be deployed to West Africa to help train a regional intervention force, the Government has said, in a further deepening of the UK's involvement in the conflict to drive out radical militants.
Downing Street said the troops would be in addition to up to 40 personnel that Britain is offering to contribute to an EU training mission to build up the Malian army.
In addition, the UK has offered to supply a roll-on, roll-off ferry to help transport heavy equipment to the French intervention force currently spearheading the fight against militants.
It will also allow allies such as the United States to fly air-to-air refuelling missions from British airbases in support of the French operation.
With around 90 UK personnel already committed in the region with the RAF Sentinel surveillance aircraft and two C-17 transport aircraft already operating in support of the French mission, it could take the numbers involved to more than 300.
A spokesman for David Cameron said the Prime Minister remained adamant that British troops would not be involved in combat operations against the militants.
Answering an urgent question from Labour in the Commons, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the 200 British troops would assist Anglophone West Africa countries.
He said the role of UK soldiers "is clearly not a combat role and will not extend to a force protection role".
When pressed by the opposition party about exit strategies, Mr Hammond said he shared plans outlined by France that it should be a "short intervention to stabilise the situation on the ground".
For Labour, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy expressed concern at the way the mission had expanded so rapidly.
"The UK commitment to Mali has grown from lending the French two transport aircraft to the deployment of perhaps hundreds of troops to the region," he said. "UK trainers may be non-combat but that does not mean they are without risk."
Mr Murphy told Sky News that Labour supported the Government's decision to send troops to Mali for training purposes.
But he said the public were "wary" about military commitments after the UK's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Veteran Tory backbencher Sir Peter Tapsell said in the Commons: "The more frequently Western forces intervene in Muslim countries, the greater will be the spread of jihadism throughout the whole Islamic world and the higher the threat of terrorism in this country."
The mission to train a West African force known as Afisma - which has been under consideration since late last year - was being discussed at a donor conference for Mali being organised by the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
British personnel will be involved in training troops from countries, such as Nigeria, which is expected to be one of the largest contributors to Afisma which is slated to take over from the French once their mission is over.
Local troops had been unable to fight off militants entering Timbuktu last year and simply put down their weapons and fled - leaving the already armed radical jihadists with further weaponry.
what do you think?
British troops even in the role of trainers are still in harms way and will need to defend themselves. This is the quickest mission creep I can remember from one aircraft to boots on the ground by the score
Don't forget the sentinel surveilence aircraft and personell,the use of airbases and now a roll on roll off ferry ship.The mission is not creeping its jogging.
Can't believe he's sending our troops to another hot spot totally unbelievable especially when it's nothing to do with us - French wouldn't send troops to back us
Its everything to do with us shirley.though it would have been easier if the french went it alone for once.the french will have to chase the terrorists down in the desert, someone will have to cover in mali, why other euro nations cant do this i not sure.
Why indeed shaun, although possibly because the others have realised wasting 440 young lives to no effect is just stupid.
When the area is being used to recruit and train terrorists who want to then attack the western world, britain included, this has everything to do with us.nip it in the bud early before it escalates I say.
Why the thumbs down here.
Are we now attacking the same people that the USA trained, that went on to overthrow the government of Mali some 10 months ago? This is all very confusing.
A military coup took place in mali and ousted the democratic goverment at the begining of 2012.its this military that has been defeated by islamic terrorists and no doubt use the area to train islamic terroists.the french are going in to return the country to a democratic state.the french will also chase these terrorists into the desert.
The uk has done more than its fair share in the war against islasmic terrorism its about time the french got more involved .but the same could be said of the rest of the euro nations.so far though the french have done an excellent job.
Shaun you need to google the countries that have sent support staff to the conflicts in iraq and afghanistan there was a few EU countries involved. And some have lost lives as well
more immigrants on the way claiming thier lives will be at risk if they return home.
All these conflicts doesn't exactly bode well for either side.
and not a sausage to syria..........STINKS!
And risk drawing in iran russia and china to supporting assad's regime? No thanks
They turned left to Timbukto instead of right into Tottenham - same result though