Saturday, November 26, 2011

Update: Foreigners in Timbuktu Evacuated to Bamako

As a follow-up to my earlier postings today regarding the murder of a German tourist and the kidnapping of tourists from the Netherlands, South Africa/UK and Sweden, Malian authorities have evacuated roughly 20 foreign tourists from the ancient city of Timbuktu in northern Mali.

COMMENT: The latest kidnappings brought to five the number of foreigners taken hostage in Mali within a 48 hour-period, after two French nationals described as a geologist and an engineer were taken from their hotel in Hombori 240 kilometers (150 miles) to the south early Thursday (November 24).

Tourism in Timbuktu, an oasis known as "The Pearl of the Desert" and a World Heritage site renowned for its ancient Islamic architecture, was already suffering as foreign governments warned their citizens not to visit the region.

The two kidnapped Frenchman have been identified by AFP named in documents seen by AFP as Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic, both of whom had had arrived in Hombori on Tuesday (November 22), apparently on a mission to take soil samples for the company Mande Construction Immobiliere, which plans to build a cement factory in the region.

French authorities had previously classified northern Mali as a "red zone," a recommendation that travel there be avoided. Earlier today the French foreign ministry enlarged the area to include Hombori. The capital of Bamako and the rest of the country is designated an "orange zone," meaning that travel there is not recommended, unless absolutely necessary.

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