Priceless heritage at risk from extremists

Rebel group in control of Timbuktu desecrates venerated tomb and seeks to obliterate thousands of ancient manuscripts

By Emily Sharpe. Conservation, Issue 236, June 2012
Published online: 06 June 2012

Timbuktu is in the hands of religious extremists who have set fire to a 15th-century mausoleum

Concern for the cultural heritage of Mali is growing after militant Islamic fundamentalists desecrated a 15th-century tomb of a Muslim saint in Timbuktu in May, and threatened to destroy other tombs as well as anything else they perceive as being idolatrous or contrary to their version of Islam. The northern Malian city, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is home to several other such tombs and three historic mosques as well as many small museums. Timbuktu also has between 600,000 and one million ancient manuscripts housed in public and private collections that are vulnerable to acts of destruction from the occupying rebel forces as well as from those looking to profit from the political unrest.

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