Jihadists have destroyed a mausoleum in central Mali that had been submitted as a U.N. World Heritage site, leaving behind a warning that they will come after all those who don't follow their strict version of Islam, a witness said Monday.
The dynamite attack on the mausoleum of Cheick Amadou Barry mirrors similar ones that were carried out in northern Mali in 2012 when jihadists seized control of the major towns there. The destruction also comes as concerns grow about the emergence of a new extremist group active much further south and closer to the capital.
Barry was a marabout, or important Islamic religious leader, in the 19th century who helped to spread Islam among the animists of central Mali. One of his descendants, Bologo Amadou Barry, confirmed to The Associated Press that the site had been partially destroyed in Hamdallahi village on Sunday night.
The jihadists left behind a note on Sunday warning they would attack all those who did not follow the teachings of Islam's prophet.
"They also threatened France and the U.N. peacekeepers and all those who work with them," Bologo Amadou Barry said.
France led the military operation to oust extremists from power in northern Mali back in early 2013 and the U.N. peacekeeping mission is working to stabilize the country.
The mausoleum destroyed Sunday was part of a historic village that is a national heritage site. It was nominated in 2009 to be recognized by UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency.
The attack comes amid growing concern about a previously unknown jihadist group calling itself the Movement for the Liberation of Macina. The group has carried out a series of attacks since January and Human Rights Watch detailed earlier this year how the militants have been threatening residents accused of cooperating with French and U.N. forces.
In 2012 jihadists razed some 16 mausoleums honoring Timbuktu's saints, saying they didn't want people venerating them as though they were God.