In the ongoing struggle between northern Mali’s secessionist Taureg fighters and a local Islamic jihadist group, Ansar Dine, the Islamists claim to have driven all remaining rebels from a third and final large town in the region. If the reports are accurate it would complete their control over a lawless area that may serve as a stronghold for al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the Maghreb.This is very, very bad for those of us who care about history, even the history of cultures not our own:
Strengthened by the return of experienced and well-armed Tuareg soldiers hired by Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi, the secessionists worked with Asnar Dine in January to beat back the feeble Malian national forces. Their alliance, however, was superficial – divided by fundamental tribal and religious differences, it took only a few weeks before the two groups violently turned on each other.
The Islamists, meanwhile, are celebrating their win by taking a leaf out of the Taliban’s Afghan playbook. Just as the Taliban destroyed ancient Buddhist sculptures in Afghanistan, the Ansar is going after the memorials and tombs of Sufi saints and other world heritage buildings in Timbuktu.
Al-Qaeda attacked 15th centrury shrines and mosques in Timbuktu with "pick axes", according to various reports streaming in from Mali.In fairness, it must be pointed out that Islamists are hardly the only ones to intentionally destroy historical sites; remember the Hindu destruction on the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India in 1992. Of course, there was a critical difference with the Babri Mosque: the Hindu claimed the site as their own, the site of an ancient temple to their god Rama that was taken over my Muslim conquest. The shrines being destroyed in Timbuktu are mainly Sufi, known for being a relatively mystical, peaceful, tolerant strain of Islam, which is, of course, intolerable for scum like Ansar Dine.
The Al Qaeda sect is destroying shrines in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu constitues "a possible war crime” [according to the international Criminal Court].
The militant Islamists are reported to have destroyed at least “seven relics” so far, including the world famous Sidi Yahya, considered one of Timbuktu’s three great mosques. They appeared to have targeted the destruction of these idols specifically...
The mosque was built around 1400 and is part of the city’s storied history as one of the centers of Islam in Africa during the 15th and 16th centuries, earning Timbuktu the nickname of the “City of 333 Saints,” according to UNESCO.
“They came with pickaxes, they cried, ‘Allah’ and broke the door,” a former tour guide for the once-popular tourist destination told Agence France-Press. “It is very serious. Some of the people watching began crying.”
The attackers were identified as “Ansar Dine”, also known as “Defenders of the Faith”, a radical al-Qaeda terrorist affiliate organization in Mali.
Ansar Dine also transliterated Ançar Dine, Ançar Deen or Ansar ad-Din is an Islamist group led by Iyad Ag Ghaly – a one man wave of terror across Mali.
Ag Ghaly, one of the most prominent leaders of a Tuareg rebellion in the 1990s, is accused of having links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Islamist groups, a splinter group which is led by his cousin Hamada Ag Hama. Ansar Dine wants the imposition of strict Sharia law across Mali.
The group number one stated goal or mission is to impose sharia law across Mali, including the Azawad region.
Witnesses have said that Ansar Dine fighters wear long beards (also know as “the long beards” or “beaded ones”). The group fly’s black flags with the Shahada (Islamic creed) inscribed in white lettering.
According to different reports, unlike the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Ansar Dine does not seek independence as such, but rather “to keep Mali intact and convert it into a rigid theocracy”, according to some reports.
These Sufi shrines may not survive the month:
The West African city of Timbuktu used to be one of Africa's richest and most important, a nexus of trade across the Sahara and a center of religious and scientific learning as far back as the 1400s. The relics of that history still stand in the form of such world heritage sites as the University of Sankore. More recently, this city in the sprawling West African country of Mali has been a tourism draw. But, on April 2, it came under new ownership: rebels from an ethnic minority known as Tuareg, who'd sought independence for years. Five days later they got it, declaring northern Mali as the independent country of Azawad. Then, on June 1, breakaway rebels with the extremist Islamist group Ansar Dine (translation: "Defenders of Faith") took control of Timbuktu.This is why Islamists are not human. They are not even animals. They are barbarians. They are evil.
In their first month of rule, Ansar Dine has shut down the tourism industry ("We are against tourism. They foster debauchery," a representative said), sent locals fleeing, and, over the past four days, destroyed half of the shrines that mark Timbuktu's ancient and remarkable history. The United Nations condemned the destruction and the International Criminal Court suggested it could be a war crime, but Ansar Dine insisted they won't slow down, later pulling a beautiful Gothic door off the Sidi Yahya mosque that became one of the world's great centers of learning during the 1400s. They follow an extreme form of Islam (though a relatively modern one; it emerged in late-1700s Saudi Arabia) that sees Timbuktu's shrines and mosque-universities as sacrilegious; a form of idol-worship. Their campaign is still going -- it's been compared to the Taliban's early-2001 destruction of ancient Buddha statues -- and some observers worry that many of Timbuktu's historical treasures, which have survived countless invasions and empires, won't live out the month.