Islamists destroy historic Mali tombs

Posted: July 02, 2012

BAMAKO, Mali - Islamist fighters with ties to al-Qaeda have destroyed tombs classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in Mali's historic city of Timbuktu, a resident and U.N. officials said Saturday.

Irina Bokova, who heads the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said in a statement Saturday that the centuries-old Muslim mausoleums of Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi, Moctar and Alpha Moya have been destroyed.

Resident Ali Yattara said Saturday that the Islamists began attacking the saints' tombs with shovels. He said they said they were responding to UNESCO's request on Thursday that the sites be put on the organization's "in danger" list.

Yattara said locals planned to fight back.

"The youth of Timbuktu is preparing to retaliate against the desecration of the graves of our saint," he said Saturday. "Against the Islamists' weapons, we will fight with sticks and stones."

He said the Islamists don't approve of residents' high regard for the saints' tombs.

The U.N. cultural agency called for an immediate halt to the destruction of the sacred Muslim tombs.

Bokova called on "all parties engaged in the conflict to stop these terrible and irreversible acts."

Timbuktu was a center of Islamic learning as far back as the 12th century.

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