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Organizers lament cancellation of Timbuktu music festival

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/2/2017

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Organizers say the last-minute cancellation of a well-known music festival in Timbuktu marks a missed opportunity to bring hope to a former tourist hub struggling to recover after years of extremist threats.

The Festival of the Desert has not taken place in northern Mali since 2012, when armed groups including al-Qaida-linked extremists took over the region and imposed a strict form of Islamic law that banned music.

Manny Ansar, the festival's founding director, had planned to revive it in Timbuktu last weekend, but officials cancelled it because of security concerns exacerbated by a deadly attack on an army camp in the north last month. Dozens were killed.

Paul Chandler, a festival partner, said Thursday the festival's return would have been "inspirational" and "an amazing thing" for Timbuktu's residents.

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