In Timbuktu, rebels from the Al-Qaeda-allied Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) group continued their destruction of the city’s cultural treasures, defying a chorus of international condemnation.
Ansar Dine, Malinese Salafist militants, have destroyed two shrines located in Timbuktu’s Djingareyber Mosque and the sacred door of the Sidi Yahia Mosque that dates back to the 15th Century.News reports state that Ansar Dine militants blocked two roads leading to the Djingareyber Mosque, firing warning shots to scare people away before smashing the historic Islamic monuments with shovels and pickaxes.
Sanda Ould Boumama, the group’s spokesman, said, “Ansar Dine will today destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception. God is unique. All of this is haram. We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what?”
The Islamist Group’s beliefs condemn the reverence of saints by the Sufis who built these shrines centuries ago. The destruction operations started on 1 July and resulted in the demolition of several of the 16 existing mausoleums. The move came just after UNESCO announced Timbuktu as an endangered world heritage site.
As many of you know, or perhaps you don’t, militant Islamists believe that idolatry is wrong and against the Koran. As such they have taken it upon themselves to destroy national monuments and icons any time they feel necessary.
This month, they have been destroying national monuments and tombs in northern Mali.
The Islamists terrorized Timbuktu and have begun destroying tombs that are critical for tourism and the financial survival of the town.
The tombs are featured on many postcards from Mali and are one of the main reasons people travel to that part of the world.
The destruction in Timbuktu is reminiscent of the Taliban blowing up the giant Buddhas of the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan – an ancient Buddhist shrine on the Silk Road – in 2001 after branding them un-Islamic.
A March 22 coup in Mali eased the way for Tuareg separatist rebels to seize an area in the north larger than France that they consider their homeland.
However, the previously unknown Ansar Dine group seized the upper hand while fighting on their flanks. Openly allied with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, they have since pushed the Tuareg rebels from all positions of power.
The international community fears the vast desert area will become a new haven for terrorist activity and the Islamists have threatened any country that joins a possible military intervention force in Mali.
The attacks by the Ansar Dine militants will have long lasting negative impacts on the nation. The people of Mali are already very poor and this will only serve to worsen their condition.