Conflict & Justice

Mali Islamists announce plans to keep destroying Timbuktu


Dromedaries hang in a street of the northwestern Malian city of Timbuktu on April 11, 2006. The fabled desert city of Timbuktu fire the imagination of every adventurer, but an outbreak of fierce fighting in the region has raised fears tourists may snub the African treasure.



Islamist fighters linked to Al Qaeda have already destroyed an ancient shrine in Timbuktu, much to the horror of the Mali government, locals and the rest of the world. But that was only the beginning. The Islamists announced today that they plan to keep destroying Timbuktu, a town in Mali famous for its historic, centuries-old shrines to Islamic saints, BBC News reported

A spokesman for the Islamists told the BBC that they hope to "destroy every mausoleum in the city - all of them, without exception."

The destruction is organized by the salafist Ansar Dine group. The group is a supporter of the super-strict Islamic law called Shariah law, and they feel that the the historic mausoleums in Timbuktu violate that law, the Associated Press reported. While the shrines are revered by some Muslims, the hard-line salafists are opposed to the shrines because they consider them to be idolatrous. 

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By the end of the day Saturday, the Islamists had destroyed three tombs. On Sunday, they continued to hack at the ancient tombs with hoes and chisels, intent on wrecking four more mausoleums at the cemetery of Djingareyber, Agence France-Presse reported. Onlookers helplessly looked on. "It hurts but we can't do anything. These madmen are armed," a witness told the AFP. 

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has already placed Timbuktu on its list of sites in danger and has spoken out against the violence. But the Islamist group said they are not concerned with how they come across in Mali or in the world. "We are subject to religion and not to international opinion. Building on graves is contrary to Islam. We are destroying the mausoleums because it is ordained by our religion," Oumar Ould Hamaha, of Ansar Dine, told Reuters in a telephone interview today. 

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