The United Nations has placed Mali’s historical town of Timbuktu on a list of sites in danger due to escalating violence in the country’s northern region.
In a statement Thursday, the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO said the decision to place the town and the nearby Tomb of Askia, which dates from the 17th century and is located inside the city of Gao, on its List of World Heritage in Danger “aims to raise cooperation and support for the sites threatened by the armed conflict in the region.”
The body also called on Mali’s neighbors to do their utmost to prevent the trafficking in looted objects, including important ancient manuscripts, from both sites, and urged the African Union and the international community “to do all in their power to help protect Timbuktu.”
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The statement comes a day after Islamists forces in Mali’s restive north seized Gao from Tuareg rebels, and amidst ongoing tensions between the secular, separatist, Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamists, who teamed up in order to take over the northern two-thirds of Mali in April following a coup the previous month but appear to have been unable to reach an accord since securing power, Reuters reported.
According to the BBC, many examples of unique architectural structures made out mud and wood hundreds of years ago – as well as about 700,000 ancient manuscripts – are to be found in Timbuktu, which lies on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The pyramidal Tomb of Askia dates back to the late 15th century.
According to the Agence France Presse, fighters from Al Qaeda’s North African franchise – Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – have been accused of destroying Timbuktu’s tomb of St Sidi Amar after taking over the town in late March.
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