Bomako — Islamist militants, swinging pick-axes and shouting God's praise, destroyed ancient tombs of Muslim saints in Mali's fabled city of Timbuktu on Saturday, sparking international condemnation.
An Al-Qaeda-linked group has threatened to destroy all of the 16 main Sufi mausoleum sites in Timbuktu despite international outcry. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for an immediate halt to the attacks.
Local journalist Yaya Tandina told Reuters that about 30 militants armed with Kalashnikovs and pick-axes destroyed three mausoleums of saints on Sunday.
Ansar Dine and other Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups have imposed strict sharia law since sweeping across northern Mali in the chaotic aftermath of a March 22 coup in the capital Bamako.
"They have raped Timbuktu today. It is a crime," said a source close to a local imam in Timbuktu, known as the "City of 333 Saints".