MALI -- Al Qaeda is on the rise in North Africa, and in the bullseye -- the country of Mali.
For more than a year government troops have battled Islamist rebels in northern Mali, and though some liberated areas are beginning to recover, the war's effects still linger.
Terrorist have been fighting for control against French and African troops, and the evidence can be seen in places like Diabaly where one can get a firsthand look at the devastation and terror.
Seventy-five-year-old Muslim villager Adam Diallo described how rebel gunfire frightened him. He said he's never experienced such terror.
Rebels infiltrated villages and propagated lies, saying they came to impose Islamic law, but "all they did was train villagers to be good drug dealers," Diallo said.
When asked if he wanted Shariah (Islamic) law instituted, laws like cutting off the hand of a thief, Diallo replied: "Cut off their hands? No. That is not Koranic law!"
The Islamists were not welcomed by the people in the northern town of Diabaly. In fact, they wanted them to leave. So, when the French arrived in late January and liberated them, they were thankful.
Still, they have traumatic stories to tell.
The Aftermath Trauma
One traumatized man said the Islamist rebels kidnapped him, bound his hands and feet, and carried him away on sticks, "like they were going to barbecue some meat."
Fortunately, Malian Army soldiers rescued him.
Rebels shot and killed Lasseni Kandako's younger brother. He said intense fighting prevented him from carrying his brother's body to the cemetery.
Laseeni showed CBN News Sr. International Correspondent Gary Lane the storage room where he buried him. His family still mourns and his children, including young Laji and Haji, will now grow up without a father.
Stories like this are all too familiar. Two young girls recalled the memory of their younger brother, Amadou.
"At 6:30 a.m. after breakfast we heard gunfire and then a rebel rocket propelled grenade smashed through our fence. It shattered the bedroom door...Amadou was sleeping, his back was against the wall."
"So this is what is left of the rocket... it came through and shattered it, and the shrapnel ended up killing the kid, killing the little boy," a family member said.
Twelve-year-old Koumba survived the errant rocket. She showed CBN News how shrapnel ripped through her now bandaged knees.
Amadou's aunt, Fatima, said neither golf nor diamonds can replace her nephew's life.
"He was a lovely boy -- very quiet and respectful. I miss him greeting me every morning. He would to come to me and say, 'Good morning, auntie.' In my mind I still see him out playing soccer with his friends after school. I will never forget him," Fatima Dasisi said.
Help has come to Amadou's family and others in Diabaly as they struggle to overcome the effects of civil war.
CBN'S Operation Blessing brought rice and mosquito nets to people who lost loved ones, the injured, or those with damaged homes. All of them, including Amadou's aunt Fatima, expressed their gratitude.
"When I heard that you came to help us, I cried. Many people have come to hear about our loss, but you are the first people to bring food to help us," she said.
A Miracle in Mali
Not only have Christians reached out to help, God has also answered cries of desperation.
Pastor Jean Gindou said members of his Gospel Missionary Inland Church started praying non-stop when the rebels first arrived. They knew the Islamists had targeted Christians and churches in other northern cities.
"We started praying and God answered our prayers. All the members of this church were spared and nothing happened to them. God cares for His children and no matter what happens, we will trust in Him," Pastor Jean Gindou said.
Mailans are still in desperate need of help, but they're learning to trust God for protection and provision while they begin rebuilding their lives.