Mali rebels tied to drug trade

Oct. 11, 2012 at 12:01 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Islamic militants in northern Mali are using money from narcotics traffickers in the region to buy loyalty, a U.N. envoy on human rights said.

Following a visit to Mali, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, who recently visited Mali, said Islamic militants in control of northern Mali are using drug money and abuse to maintain control.

Delivering a briefing at U.N. headquarters, Simonovic said northern militants have "tremendous resources" available to buy loyalty because of kickbacks from drug traffickers. That didn't translate to support from the civilian population, however.

"The overwhelming majority of people in the north are not supportive of the rebels and dislike what is happening," he said.

Public executions, amputations and other abuses are widespread in areas where Islamic rebels are enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

"Everybody is banned from listening to music, from smoking, women have to be covered but the women are also targeted in the sense of restricting their ability to work," he said.

Last month, the Mali government said it supported a 3,000-troop strong military unit backed by the Economic Community of West African States. ECOWAS forces would help a divided country address the insurgency in the north.

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