Mali Islamists Destroy More Ancient Shrines in Timbuktu

Posted July 1st, 2012 at 3:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Islamist rebels in northern Mali on Sunday defied international calls to stop destroying ancient shrines in the city of Timbuktu.

For the second straight day, rebels with the militant group Ansar Dine used tools to hack away at the mausoleums of Sufi saints.

The United Nationas last week declared the ancient city a World Heritage site in need of protection. It is home to 16 ancient mausoleums.

On Sunday, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said attacks against cultural heritage sites are “totally unjustified.”

The spokesman said the world body has received reports that the mausoleums of revered saints Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Moctar and Alpha Moya have been destroyed.

Hardline Islamists like Ansar Dine regard such shrines as sacrilegious, but the sites are an important part of worship for Muslims around the world.

Witnesses told VOA the militants have threatened local Malians who tried to defend the ancient tombs.

Timbuktu was once an intellectual and spiritual capital, as well as a center for Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries.

It is home to thousands of ancient manuscripts, preserved in family homes and private libraries under the care of religious scholars.

The United Nations said it declared Timbuktu an endangered site because of the threat of armed conflict in the region.