Armed protesters from Mali’s Arab community fired shots into the air, burned tyres and torched vehicles in Timbuktu on Wednesday, bringing the desert city to a standstill days before an election seen as a test of stability across the country, officials said. The Arab youths, mostly petty traders, were protesting against worsening insecurity and alleged ill treatment by security forces in northern Mali, which has been plagued by Islamist violence, Tuareg separatists and ethnic tensions ever since armed groups took over parts of the region in 2012. Demonstrators filled the streets, forcing shops and banks to shut, witnesses said, though there were no reports of casualties.
Malians will vote on Sunday in a presidential election in which President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will seek a second term amid rising discontent over the government’s record on security.
“It’s deplorable,” Timbuktu’s mayor Abacrine Cisse told Reuters by telephone. “There are still gunmen in the town disturbing the peace. I’ve been in touch with all the community leaders to try to resolve this incident,” he said.