When Libya’s government was unable to control the borders during the civil war in 2011, it was Christmas for the bad guys. Many Islamist groups like Al Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM) or Ansar Dine finally had the armoury to get out of their desert hideouts and jeopardize the stability in the whole region.
By late 2012, Ansar Dine took all cities in the Northern part of Mali and was about to conquer the rest of the poor country, when ultimately in January 2013, the French army came and restored order.
But the radical Islamist group altered the whole cultural image of the country. The Christian minority turned their back on the North, and the city of Timbuktu, once called “Jewel of the desert” and the home to hundreds of thousands of Islamic manuscripts, lost all of its culture. Shortly before Ansar Dine took control of the city, and even during the occupation, a secret operation went under way to collect all the manuscripts and smuggle them to Mali’s capital Bamako. The city didn’t only loose its economical prospect, but also its entire Christian and cultural identity. It remains unclear, if any of them will ever return.