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Sahara Travel Forum Topics specific to North Africa and the Sahara down to the 17th parallel (excludes Morocco)
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  #1  
Old 2 Jan 2011
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Is Timbuktu Safe?

Hi, I have been going to Timbuktu nearly every year since 2005, first to the music festival, (which should be starting this week) then to explore the desert. Last time I was there in 2009, I was told it wasn't safe outside of the town. Now there are numerous travel alerts warning of an Al Qaeda branch (AQIM)from Algeria in the Sahara. Has anyone been to Timbuktu recently? What is the vibe in town and is it safe to be there? I was planning on going in February.

Thanks,

Elisabeth
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  #2  
Old 2 Jan 2011
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I would say it's right on the border of the risky area to the north, or more realistically, in it.

Brit FCO map
French 'FCO' map
(both from November)

MBM's camp is thought to be not far to the north of Timbuktu, around Arouane.

Last two months seemed quiet - before that it was not. Of the kidnapped 7 group up north, no word.

So much depends on how you comport yourself there, how you dress and how you arrive (ie: not in a small plane...) and what language you speak there. And if you've been there before - who you know.
Keeping a low profile is best, and though you may blend in better than some, a picture-taking American (if that is your nationality) would be quiet a prize.

The current worry is that while AQIM may not know who is in town, the longer you hang around the more chance a hard-up/desperate local with a grudge may grab you to hand over for a quick buck.

Ch

Last edited by Chris Scott; 2 Jan 2011 at 20:29.
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  #3  
Old 2 Jan 2011
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Thanks Chris- With all of my gear, it is hard for me to keep a low profile- though I am fluent in French and know Mali quite well, I am a Californian. Having traveled there many times, I do know people. But after reading your post, it is probably best to wait on returning to that region. It could be years before it becomes stable again.
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  #4  
Old 5 Jan 2011
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There will be a good number of westerners in the area for the The Official Website of Festival Au Desert | Essakane, Mali | Jan 6-8 2011.
There is a lot of talk about security and the Malian President a.k.a. ATT is attending for the first time, meaning there'll be lots of it.
I don't think hanging around after the festival would be a good idea.
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  #5  
Old 13 Jan 2011
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A blog from Tim about a week ago. Only skimmed it but all seems fine, security wise.

Day 63 to Tombouctou 54kms N16 46'911 W 003 00'837 - GetJealous.com Free Travel Blogs

Ch
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  #6  
Old 14 Jan 2011
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If your speculation in another thread is correct about the reason why the last five hostage takings has been in Niger/Mauri, Mali may be perfectly safe for kidnappings.
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Old 14 Jan 2011
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Strangely, there've been very little kidnappings in Mali. It's only conjuncture, but it seems that AQIM prefers to kidnap in Niger. I spent over 6 months in Kidal, I've crossed the borders between Mali and Mauri multiple times, and never had a problem -- there's speculation about a mutual avoidance, i.e. the tribes, like Ifoghas in Kidal, don't bother AQIM so AQIM doesn't take action in their area...then again, there's not loads of foreigners around.

Bottom line, whether or not it's safe is not a question that can reasonably be answered. If you want 100% assurance you will not be kidnapped, you shouldn't go. Kidnapping is just a possible reality that we deal with in that part of the world.

Chris
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Old 20 Jan 2011
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Just saw this:
Paris évoque "un risque imminent" d’enlèvement au Nord Mali

Paris évoque "un risque imminent" d'enlèvement au Nord Mali - Temoust.org | Le portail du peuple touareg berbère Kel Tamasheq

or in english...
Paris evokes "an imminent hazard" kidnapping in northern Mali

PARIS - The France fears "an imminent hazard" removal of its nationals in the North of Mali, said Wednesday the Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie ten days after the kidnapping drama by Al Qaeda for two young French in Niger.
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Old 21 Jan 2011
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More than that, they have made even south Mali an orange zone which has infuriated many since the risks are probably small south of the river.
[France-Diplomatie-Ministère des Affaires étrangères et europeennes] MALI
They have advised against French travelling anywhere between Mauritania and Sudan.
Obviously they don't want the risk of having more people kidnapped after the last disaster.
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