1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Attacks on Sufi sites in Mali

July 1, 2012

Sacred Sufi Muslim sites in the city of Timbuktu have come under attack for a second day by an al Qaeda-linked militant group . Mali's government has called on the United Nations to take action.

Fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard as they prepare to hand over a Swiss female hostage for transport by helicopter to neighboring Burkina Faso, at a designated rendezvous point in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali Tuesday, April 24, 2012.
Image: dapd

Islamist militants in northern Mali attacked Sufi Muslim religious sites for the second day on Sunday, despite growing condemnation from the international community.

The militant group Ansar Dine, which means Defenders of the Faith, destroyed the mausoleums of three saints from the more liberal Sufi sect of Islam with pick axes on Saturday. On Sunday, the Salafist group's spokesman threatened to destroy all the mausoleums in the city.

"We are going to destroy everything before we apply Shariah law in this city," Sanda Abu Mohamed said.

Mali's Culture and Tourism Minister, Fadima Diallo, has called called on the United Nations to take action.

"Mali exhorts the UN to take concrete steps to stop these crimes against the cultural heritage of my people," she told UNESCO's annual meeting in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague told the AFP news agency that the attacks were war crimes and those responsible would be held accountable.

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

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

'Ordained by religion'

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed Timbuktu as an endangered World Heritage site on Thursday due to the threat posed by Islamist violence in the city.

"We are subject to religion and not international opinion," Oumar Ould Hamaha, a spokesman for Ansar Dine, told the news agency Reuters. "We are destroying the mausoleums because it is ordained by our religion."

Ansar Dine, which has ties to al-Qaeda, and ethnic Tuareg rebels seized the northern half of Mali and declared independence in the aftermath of a March 22 military coup in the country. The two groups subsequently began fighting with each other, with Ansar Dine gaining the upper hand.

slk/jlw (AP, AFP)