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The Tuareg are a Berber group living as nomadic pastoralists in regions south of the Sahara. In earlier times they also benefited (both as raiders and traders) from the rich caravans of well-laden camels passing north and south through the Sahara.

The Tuareg have many distinctive traditions. They preserve an ancient Libyan script, no longer used elsewhere. Their social structure is rigidly stratified, in a feudal manner, with the lowest level until recently formed by a large number of black African slaves. Unlike other Muslim groups, it is the Tuareg men, rather than the women, who go about in public closely veiled, with only the eyes showing.

The region roamed by the Tuareg is divided in 1960 into independent states, after the dissolution of French West Africa. This puts major obstacles in the way of the nomads, in the form of international frontiers. In severe droughts in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the Tuareg suffer greatly as traditional pastures suddenly become unavailable. The result is great unrest, which erupts most notably in Mali and Niger in the 1990s.

In the late 20th century it is calculated that the number of Tuareg may be in the region of 900,000.

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