Photos: Timbuktu Liberated

These photos were taken a few days after Timbuktu was liberated by French and Malian troops. The ancient town, on the Southern Edge of the Sahara desert, is a world heritage sight. In April 2012, Islamist militants took control of Timbuktu and imposed a strict form of Islamic law that banned music as well as all traditional folklore and ceremonies that make Malian culture vibrant. Women also had to wear the full black niqab and were banned from mixing with men in public. The militants started to destroy Muslim shrines that offended their puritan views. In late January 2013, a force of 1,000 French troops with 200 Malian soldiers retook Timbuktu without a fight. The Islamist militants had already fled north a few days earlier, having set fire to the Ahmed Baba Institute, which housed many important manuscripts. Fortunately approximately 28,000 of the manuscripts had been removed to safety before the attack.