Armed groups occupying Timbuktu in northern Mali have used pickaxes to smash up any remaining mausoleums in the ancient city.
Tuareg rebels and other separatists and al-Qaeda linked militant groups took advantage of a coup in Mali in March to seize control of a vast chunk of territory where the Islamists have since imposed a brutal form of Islamic law – Photo: AFP
www.telegraph.co.uk – Source: AFP
The rebels’ ruthless implementation of their version of Islamic law comes just days after the United Nations approved a military force to wrest back control of the conflict-ridden area.
“Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn’t like it,” Abou Dardar, leader of the Islamist Ansar Dine group, told AFP. “We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area.”
Witnesses confirmed the claims.
Anything that doesn’t fall under Islam “is not good. Man should only worship Allah,” Mohamed Alfoul, a member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said.
The vandalism of the Muslim saints’ tombs in the UNESCO World Heritage site came a day after other Islamists in the northern city of Gao announced they had amputated two people’s hands.
The continued strict application of sharia law is seen as a sign that the armed Islamist groups are unfazed by the UN’s green light for the African-led military operation.
Planners have said any intervention cannot be launched before September next year. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian however told Monday’s edition of La Croix newspaper that he thought it could be launched in the first half of 2013.
In July, Islamists destroyed the entrance to a 15th-century mosque in Timbuktu, the so-called “City of 333 Saints.”
“The Islamists are currently in the process of destroying all the mausoleums in the area with pickaxes,” one witness said.
“I saw Islamists get out of a car near the historic mosque of Timbuktu. They smashed a mausoleum behind a house shouting ‘Allah is great, Allah is great’,” another resident told AFP.
As well as in cemeteries and mosques, the revered mausoleums are found in alleyways and private residences of the city, an ancient centre of learning and a desert crossroads.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, condemned the Islamists.
A statement from her office said she was “deeply shocked by the brutal destruction of mausoleums and holy shrines in Timbuktu…
“Their destruction is a tragedy not only for the people of Mali, but for the whole world.”
Ansar Dine began destroying the cultural treasures in July.
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