Amid the relief in the Malian town of Timbuktu, the scars of seven months of occupation can still be felt.
Under the strict Sharia law imposed, many of the activities enjoyed in everyday life were forbidden, including listening to music.
Local disc jockey Albert Toure says those who seized control of Timbuktu were not genuine Muslims. “They were terrorists,” he says, “when people call them Muslims, it cheapens the name of Islam. They were terrorists.”
Shop owner Ibrahim Cisse says the militants were hypocrites, banning cigarettes while also bringing them into town to sell.
“They brought the cigarettes in,” he says,“it was them who were selling the cigarettes. How can they tell us that cigarettes are bad and then bring them here to sell to people?”
For the moment, the fighters have fled. But uncertainty lingers over whether the militant threat is truly over and whether Mali’s weak government and army can plug the gap once French forces leave.
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