Islamists destroy historic sites

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Islamist rebels from the Ansar Dine faction prepare to pray in the desert just outside Gao, Mali (AP) // Islamist rebels from the Ansar Dine faction prepare to pray in the desert just outside Gao, Mali (AP)
Islamist rebels from the Ansar Dine faction prepare to pray in the desert just outside Gao, Mali (AP)
Muslim extremists have continued to destroy the heritage of the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu razing tombs and attacking the gate of a 600-year-old mosque, despite growing international outcry.
The International Criminal Court has described the destruction of the city's patrimony as a possible war crime, while UNESCO's committee on world heritage was holding a special session this week to address the pillaging of the site, one of the few cultural sites in sub-Saharan Africa that is listed by the agency.
The Islamic faction, known as Ansar Dine, or "Protectors of the Faith," seized control of Timbuktu last week after ousting the Tuareg rebel faction that had invaded northern Mali alongside Ansar Dine's soldiers three months ago.
Over the weekend, fighters screaming "Allah Akbar" descended on the cemeteries holding the remains of Timbuktu's Sufi saints, and systematically began destroying the six most famous tombs.
A spokesman for the faction said they do not recognise either the United Nations or the world court. "The only tribunal we recognise is the divine court of Shariah," said Oumar Ould Hamaha.
"The destruction is a divine order," he said. "It's our Prophet who said that each time that someone builds something on top of a grave, it needs to be pulled back to the ground. We need to do this so that future generations don't get confused, and start venerating the saints as if they are God."
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