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Islamist fighters in Mali destroy Timbuktu shrines

July 1, 2012 - Mali

Islamist fighters in Mali have damaged shrines of Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu.

According to The BBC, witnesses said Islamist fighters began attacking the shrines on Saturday morning, using shovels and pickaxes. The fighters from the Ansar Dine group, which is tied to Al-Qaeda, which controls much of northern Mali, attacked the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud, one of 16 shrines in the city. Last week, the UN cultural organization UNESCO put Timbuktu on its list of endangered world heritage sites, fearing damage following the coup, which toppled the Malian Government in March.

However, some Muslims, especially Sufis, regard them as an accepted part of Muslim worship.

"This is tragic news for us all," UNESCO chairperson Alissandra Cummins said, adding, "I appeal to all those engaged in the conflict in Timbuktu to exercise their responsibility." Ansar Dine spokesman Sanda Ould Boumama said that the shrines would be destroyed, "all of them, without exception". He went on: "God is unique. All of this is haram (forbidden in Islam). We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what?"


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