Timbuktu, the fabled town of Medieval history located in Northern Mali, West Africa, is a Muslim township which continues to draw every year thousands of Islamic tourists and scholars who come to study its rare thirteenth century Islamic manuscripts in mathematics, astrology and physic, the relics of its past glory.
According to Hakim Toure, a Malian, and resident of the town, Timbuktu has nothing to do with Al Qaeda because the people are peaceful Muslims. He says, "Here we have nothing to do with bin Laden," but adds, "Poverty is the breeding ground of terrorism…Youths are out of work, if we don't want to create min-bin Ladens here we need to combat poverty."
Yussouf, a Koranic teacher trained in Saudi Arabia agrees with him, "Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, name who you want, but nobody is interested in religious fanaticism. We are Muslims, good Muslims. That is all."
The liberal Islamic faith of the people of Timbuktu is evident in their life style–the girls go to school without the compulsory hijab, and the women are not requred to wear head scarves.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is, however, known to have, in the past, launched cross-border operations from northern Mali: kidnappings, especially of foreigners, and drug trafficking. AQIM is said to be still holding four french citizens kidnapped in September last year. Mali is however pushing a regional plan to set up a force to combat Islamic militants in the region.
Timbuktu began its rise to fame in the Middle Ages when, after the destruction of neighboring Walata by the Sosso invaders, Muslim scholars began settling in Timbuktu. Timbuktu was annexed into the Mali Empire by the famous King Mansa Musa I, in 1324. He brought hundreds of Muslim scholars to build the Islamic University at the Djingereber Mosque. Timbuktu entered the Catalan World Atlas in 1375. It's fabled name was derived mostly from the fact that beginning in the thirteenth century, it, along with neighboring Jenne, had come into control of about two-thirds of the world's supply of gold. From Jenne and Timbuktu across the Sahara, large Caravans of camels supplied gold to the newly rising urban economic centers of Europe like Genoa and Venice.