Timbuktu’s Ancient Relics Lay In Ruins At Hands of Militant Group

The mudbrick mosque Djingareyber dates back to 1325 CE. Photo: Erwin Boldwidt

The 15th century tombs and cultural relics of Timbuktu, a key trade and social center of the ancient world, are being destroyed by an armed group known as the Ansar Dine.

According to the Guardian,

Locals said the attackers had threatened to destroy all of the 16 main mausoleum sites… witnesses said Ansar Dine had already destroyed the mausoleums of three local saints – Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi el-Mokhtar and Alfa Moya – and at least seven tombs.

The Associated Press says,

The Islamic faction, known as Ansar Dine, or “Protectors of the Faith,” seized control of Timbuktu last week after ousting the Tuareg rebel faction that had invaded northern Mali alongside Ansar Dine’s soldiers three months ago. Over the weekend, fighters screaming “Allah Akbar” descended on the cemeteries holding the remains of Timbuktu’s Sufi saints, and systematically began destroying the six most famous tombs.

NPR reports,

These tombs and these historic sites in Timbuktu go back to the 15th century,” Ofeibea added. “So this is not only Timbuktu’s history, it’s Africa’s history.”

Though the United Nations called for a freeze to the destruction, and the United States’ State Department called for a ceasefire, it’s not clear that these pleas will hold much weight in halting the destruction, says the AP.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Treasures of Timbuktu

Looting Mali’s History

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