Timbuktu mausoleum destruction suspect sent to ICC

An archive image from July 2012 shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu Image copyright AFP
Image caption During their occupation, the militants vandalised and destroyed mosques and mausoleums

A suspected Islamist charged with the war crime of destroying religious monuments in Timbuktu in Mali has arrived at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for trial.

The ICC said Ahmad al-Mahdi al-Faqi, also known as Abu Tourab, had been surrendered to the court by Niger.

He is charged with the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque in the historic African city in 2012.

Islamists occupied the city until they were ousted by French forces in 2013.

In a statement on Saturday, the ICC said it was the first case to be brought before the court "concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments".

It said Mr Faqi, who was born about 100km (60 miles) west of Timbuktu, was a member of Ansar Dine - an al-Qaeda-linked group that held much of northern Mali in 2012.

He is alleged to have been involved with the so-called Islamic Court of Timbuktu during the city's occupation, participating in executing the court's decision.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The mausoleums took a year to be rebuilt by local stone masons using traditional techniques

During their occupation, the militants vandalised and destroyed mosques and mausoleums, and burnt tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts.

The city - which is listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco - was considered the centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th Centuries.

At one time it counted nearly 200 schools and universities that attracted thousands of students from across the Muslim world.

The mausoleums were shrines to Timbuktu's founding fathers, who had been venerated as saints by most of the city's inhabitants.

But this practice is considered blasphemous by fundamentalists.

Earlier this year, 14 mausoleums were rebuilt by local stone masons using traditional techniques.

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