New Yorkers with family in Mali are keeping close watch on events in that West African nation, as radicals sympathetic with al-Qaeda fight for control of the country, and some are praying that their families are not harmed. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Sitting in her Bronx home looking at pictures of her family in Mali, Djeneba Toure is heartbroken and fearful.
"I spoke to my mom and she was like, 'Hey Djeneba, pray for us, because things are not doing good, because they are very, very close," she said.
She's talking about rebels associated with factions of al-Qaeda. They are attempting to fight their way from Northern Mali to the Capital of Bamako in the south.
France continue to send troops to its former colony, joined by forces from other African nations to try to stop the rebels, who have taken over many northern cities, including historic Timbuktu, where Toure was born.
"They destroyed everything," Toure said. "All of our values. Our history. Things that we have for hundreds and hundreds of years. People come from all over the place to Timbuktu to visit these places. We don't have them any more. They are gone."
Many Malians have fled those northern towns, trying make it to other family members in the capital.
"They left their jobs. They left their farms. They left their businesses," Toure said. "Sometimes, in some of our families, you can find 50, over 50 people in the same house."
It's a big concern for worshipers at the Timbuktu Islamic Center in Harlem. They pray and hope for the best and have sent much-needed supplies back home.
"We had to pull money together here to send a container to the refugees to help them out," said Kane Mamadou, a Malian community organizer.
Complicating the situation, the democratically-elected Malian government was overthrown by its military last year. The United States is proving logistical help to the French and other African militaries that are trying to stabilize the country, an effort to prevent Mali from becoming home to a major terrorist movement.
"What we are looking for now is the integrity of our country," Mamadou said. "We don't want the separation and division of our country. We still want to remain one Mali under one flag."