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Terrorism & Security

Mali Islamists vow to destroy 'every mausoleum' in Timbuktu

Ansar Dine, the Islamist group that controls Mali's north, destroyed historic tombs and damaged a mosque this weekend, saying the religious landmarks constitute idolatry.

By Correspondent / July 2, 2012

Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group, who said they had come from Niger and Mauritania, ride on a vehicle at Kidal in northeastern Mali, on June 16.

Adama Diarra/Reuters

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Islamists in northern Mali have drawn both domestic and international condemnation after they destroyed seven historic tombs and the door to an ancient mosque in Timbuktu over the weekend. The shrines to the saints are important to local Sufi Muslims, but Mali’s Islamists say that such religious landmarks constitute idolatry.

Mali has been unstable since a military coup sparked fighting in March. Much of the country is still in grave turmoil, with Islamist group Ansar Dine now in control of the north. In the face of such an uncertain future, the United Nations’ cultural agency just last week listed Timbuktu as an endangered world heritage site.

Now the BBC reports that Sanda Ould Boumama, Ansar Dine’s spokesman, says his group will “destroy every mausoleum in the city – all of them, without exception.”

The group is already facing harsh international criticism for the attack, which is likely to result in alienation on the global stage, as happened to the Taliban in March 2001 when they blew up 6th century Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province.

The International Criminal Court has already issued a statement calling the destruction of Timbuktu’s religious landmarks a potential “war crime,” reports Agence France-Presse.

“My message to those involved in these criminal acts is clear: stop the destruction of the religious buildings now,” said Fatou Bensouda, an ICC prosecutor, according to AFP. “This is a war crime which my office has authority to fully investigate.”

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