Muslim extremists are continuing their destruction of the cultural heritage of the world famous city of Timbuktu. The Ansar Dine group, which has links to al-Qaeda, seized control of the city earlier this year. Muslim militants have destroyed tombs and Muslim shrines, claiming they violate their interpretation of Islamic law. The city was a centre of Islamic learning and culture in the Middle Ages, and three mosques and 16 places of burial in the town’s historic centre are on the list of World Heritage sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
UNESCO's committee on world heritage is holding a special session this week to address the pillaging of the site, one of the few cultural sites in sub-Saharan Africa that is listed by the agency.
“I believe this is a tragedy for all of humanity,” said Irina Bokova, secretary of UNESCO.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has also condemned the attacks, and issued a statement saying the sites were part of a “rich Islamic heritage.”