'Ansar Dine will today destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception'
Hard-line Islamists begin destroying Timbuktu mausoleums as if in response to UNESCO action
The hard-line Islamist group Ansar Dine has begun the destruction of
Sufi mausoleums in the wake of UNESCO placing Timbuktu on its list of
heritage sites in danger. The nation of Mali's northern two-thirds was
seized of rebels in April by rebels, raising concern that historical
sites there would be destroyed. For some Muslims, the erection of
shrines is heretical.
'They have already completely destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud (Ben Amar, pictured) and two others. They said they would continue all day and destroy all 16,' Yeya Tandina, a local Malian journalist, said by telephone.
"They have already completely destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud (Ben Amar) and two others. They said they would continue all day and destroy all 16," Yeya Tandina, a local Malian journalist, said by telephone.
"They are armed and have surrounded the sites with pick-up trucks. The population is just looking on helplessly," he said.
Islamists were also taking pick-axes to the mausoleum of Sidi El Mokhtar, another cherished local saint.
"It looks as if it is a direct reaction to the UNESCO decision," Timbuktu deputy Sandy Haidara, confirming the attacks.
The Islamist Ansar Dine group considers the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam as idolatrous.
"Ansar Dine will today destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception," group spokesman Sanda Ould Boumama declared.
"God is unique. All of this is haram (or forbidden in Islam). We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what?" he said, declaring that Ansar Dine was acting "in the name of God."
The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO deplored the "tragic" destruction and called for the rampage to stop.
"This is tragic news for us all," UNESCO executive committee chair Alissandra Cummins said in a statement. "I appeal to all those engaged in the conflict in Timbuktu to exercise their responsibility."
Since government forces were routed in April, Ansar Dine and other Islamist groups with links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have gained the upper hand over less well-armed Tuaregs whose goal is a secular, independent northern state.
Beyond its historic mosques, the World Heritage site of Timbuktu, once a cradle of Islamic learning, has 16 cemeteries and mausolea, according to the UNESCO Web site.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Ansar Dine, Timbuktu, Islam, Mali, historical sites
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