Destruction of Timbuktu Shrines Continues

Destruction of Timbuktu Shrines Continues

Ansar Dine group continues destruction of shrines in northern Mali amid an ICC statement calling the act a "war crime". By Aljazeera on July 1, 2012

Members of the group Ansar Dine have destroyed the mausoleums of Sufi saints in Timbuktu for a second day.

Sunday's destruction, utilising pick axes and guns, comes after a statement by the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling the ongoing campaign of destruction of ancient Islamic shrines in northern Mali "a war crime".

Yaya Tandina, a local journalist, told the Reuters news agency that about 30 members of the group, armed with Kalashnikovs and pickaxes destroyed three mausoleums of saints.

"They had armed men guarding the door. Just like yesterday, the population did not react. They [local people] said we need to let them [Ansar Dine] do what they want, hoping that someday we will rebuild the tombs," Tandina said.

War crime

Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor for the international body, told the AFP news agency on Sunday that Mali was signatory to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, which states in Article 8 that deliberate attacks against undefended civilian buildings which are not military objectives are a war crime.

"My message to those involved in these criminal acts is clear: stop the destruction of the religious buildings now. This is a war crime which my office has authority to fully investigate".

"Those who are destroying religious buildings in Timbuktu should do so in full knowledge that they will be held accountable and justice will prevail," she said.

Seven ancient tombs have been smashed by Ansar Dine, in the last two days.

The group's strict interpretation of Islam considers such places unholy and calls for their destruction.

The demolitions began with Timbuktu's independence monument, which depicts Al Farouk – a symbol of the ancient city on a horse.

They have also threatened to destroy the city's three ancient mosques, one of which dates back to 1327.

Sanda Ould Boumama, an Ansar Dine spokesman, has said the group was acting in the name of God and would "destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception".

The destruction has come after UNESCO listed the city as an endangered site because of the continuing violence in northern Mali and in the wake of an attack on a fifteenth century tomb in May.

"God is unique. All of this is haram [forbidden]. We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what", said Boumama.

The government of Mali has urged the outside world to take concrete steps to stop the destruction of the sites.

"Those who are destroying religious buildings in Timbuktu should do so in full knowledge that they will be held accountable and justice will prevail," she said.

Published at: http://www.aljazeera.com//news/africa/2012/07/20127119538255768.html