Fighters from the Islamic militant group the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) ride on a truck in the northeastern Malian city of Gao September 7, 2012. The group said on Sunday the killing of 16 Muslim preachers including eight Mauritanians and eight Malians by an army patrol in Mali was a declaration of war. MUJWA is one of the Islamic groups that has hijacked a Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali since April with the intention of imposing sharia law in the country. Picture taken September 7, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra (MALI - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CONFLICT)



Since April of this year, Islamic fundamentalist groups have controlled a Texas-sized portion of northern Mali. Few journalists are allowed to report from the region, but the news that trickles out is grim. The Islamists, imposing strict Sharia law, have severely disrupted the normal rhythm of life. Business is also hurting, as tourists headed for famous sites in Djenne and Timbuktu are now staying away out of fear. The Economic Community of West African States, or Ecowas, says it plans to send more than 3,000 troops to help Malian government forces oust the Islamists from the north. Recently Paul Mben, a journalist writing for Germany's Spiegel newspaper, managed to negotiate his way into northern Mali. He tells the BBC what he witnessed in cities such as Gao and Kidal.

Related Stories