Timbuktu - Charred timbers are all that remain of a dozen Tuareg homes burned down last week in Mali's northern city of Timbuktu by a mob angry after reports of a gun
The mob blamed the Tuaregs, who in Timbuktu number about 25 families among some 17 000 Malians who have returned to their homes this year after taking refuge in the neighbouring countries of Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.
In Timbuktu, the returnees are met with distrust, scorn and violence by residents who blame them for the unrest that has enveloped northern Mali in recent years.
Tuareg separatists took hold of Mali's north in 2012 during a coup in the south that caused a vacuum of power. Al-Qaeda-linked militants then took control, staging violent attacks, until they were pushed out of their strongholds by French forces in 2013. Since then the north has remained on edge, with about 10 000 United Nations soldiers and 5 000 Malian troops maintaining an uneasy peace, though extremists and separatists stage occasional attacks.
It was hoped the situation would improve when the government signed a peace accord with the separatists in June.