Ibrahim Ould Hannoush clings to his staff, trembling and stammering as he is interrogated in his native Tamashek language by Malian soldiers who believe he may have links with Islamist militants.
The suspect is bombarded with questions from the men, who are hunting insurgents in a valley in northern Mali as part of Operation Gustav, one of France’s largest military operations during its three-month intervention in its former colony.
Hannoush insists he is a simple Tuareg shepherd living with family in the arid Inais valley, which the French believe to be an important logistics base for the al-Qaeda-linked “Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa” (MUJAO).
But the Malian security forces helping the French seek out the militants aren't buying his story.
“Does he know something about the terrorists?” a policeman demands.
A Tuareg special forces soldier translates: “He said he saw three on a motorbike yesterday but that even the French had seen them.”
Off to the side, Chief Warrant Officer Alo Mazzak Agnamaka, also from the Malian special forces, glowers at Hannoush.
“He may not have taken up arms but he's still complicit. It's not possible to know nothing in this valley,” he says.
“Where does he think they've gone?”
“That way,” Hannoush replies, pointing eastwards. “Three days ago, in five vehicles, they came through here.”
The warrant officer, frustrated with the quality of information Hannoush is offering, mumbles into his scarf.
“He won’t tell us anything. It’s not worth bothering, no one can talk. They are all in the same situation.”
A thousand French troops backed by tanks and covered from the air went into the Inais valley, a dry river basin 160 kilometers north of Gao, Mali’s largest northern city, at the launch of Operation Gustav at dawn on Sunday.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر