Islamic militants are decimating historic sites in Mali's ancient city of Timbuktu. .
In recent days, extremists reportedly destroyed the tombs of local saints and used pick-axes to break down the door of a 15th century mosque where other saints are buried.
The attackers belong to the Ansar Dine group – which is thought to have links to al-Qadea. The militants say the locals' reverence for the saints contravenes Islamaic law.
Shamil Jeppie leads the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
He says, "the destruction of the burial places of these saints is immensely offensive to the locals. Any authority that imagines it will have any legitimacy over the short term, or the long term, would not do such a thing."