News / Africa

Militants Destroy Timbuktu Islamic Shrines

Fighters from the Islamist group Ansar Dine outside Timbuktu (file photo).Fighters from the Islamist group Ansar Dine outside Timbuktu (file photo).
x
Fighters from the Islamist group Ansar Dine outside Timbuktu (file photo).
Fighters from the Islamist group Ansar Dine outside Timbuktu (file photo).
Nancy Palus
DAKAR -- In northern Mali, members of the Islamic militant group Ansar Dine are systematically destroying mausoleums and revered Muslim tombs in Timbuktu. UNESCO has listed the historic city as a World Heritage site for its ancient mosques and shrines.  

Residents of Timbuktu told VOA that armed men from Ansar Dine began leveling the tombs early Saturday morning. The sites, including the tomb of 15th-century Muslim scholar Sidi Mahmoud, are considered sacred by the local population. Hardline Islamist groups like Ansar Dine regard such shrines as sacrilegious, but the sites are an important part of worship for Muslims around the world.

Anthadi Oumar Ascofaré was born in Timbuktu 64 years ago, and he talked to VOA from there. “Armed men encircled shrines and cemeteries in the city, while others destroyed tombs with axes, shovels and machetes,” he said. “It is painful for us to witness this destruction, but since we are unarmed we cannot react.”
 
Assoumane Maïga is a native of Timbuktu currently based in the capital, Bamako. He said he received calls throughout Saturday morning from people in Timbuktu who wanted to organize to stop the destruction. However, Maïga said, he was told that Ansar Dine's fighters threatened physical beatings for anyone gathering in a group of more than three or four people.
 
The shrines are an integral part of Timbuktu's Muslim culture, Maïga says: “Every Friday all the people from Timbuktu usually go to the cemeteries in the early morning to pray. Today it’s like you are taking a part of the soul of every single individual in Timbuktu."

Mali’s interim government condemned the “destructive rage” on display in Timbuktu. In a statement Saturday afternoon, authorities in Bamako said the desecration and destruction of shrines amounts to war crimes, and vowed to go after the perpetrators, possibly in the International Criminal Court. The communique said the violence in Timbuktu had nothing to do with Islam, and added, “The Malian people will continue to fight these reactionary practices that fly in the face of morality and cultural values.”

The attack on the ancient mausoleums comes just days after the United Nations cultural agency put Timbuktu on its list of sites that are in danger. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee urged the African Union and the international community to help protect Timbuktu and its 16 ancient mausoleums.
 
During the past week Ansar Dine and other Islamic groups in northern Mali fought with separatist Tuareg rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA. The Islamists succeeded in pushing the MNLA out of the main northern cities of Gao and Timbuktu.
 
Ansar Dine swept into northern Mali three months ago, fighting alongside Tuaregs campaigning for an independent state. Ansar Dine has said its objective is not an separate state in northern Mali, but the application of strict Islamic law throughout the western African nation.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid