World Bulletin / News Desk
Salafist Ansar Dine group armed with guns and pick-axes continued to destroy ancient mausoleums in the famed city of Timbuktu on Sunday, the second day of attacks on the UNESCO heritage sites, witnesses said.
The salafist group considers the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam to be idolatrous.
Residents say the group has threatened to destroy all of the 16 main mausoleum sites in Timbuktu despite the international outcry against the attacks. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for an immediate halt to the attacks.
"We are subject to religion and not to international opinion. Building on graves is contrary to Islam. We are destroying the mausoleums because it is ordained by our religion," Oumar Ould Hamaha, a spokesman for Ansar Dine, told Reuters by telephone from the northern city on Sunday.
Armed with Kalashnikovs and pick-axes, about 30 fighters on Sunday destroyed three centuries-old mausoleums of saints, local journalist Yaya Tandina told Reuters.
"They had armed men guarding the door. Just like yesterday, the population did not react. They (population) said we need to let them do what they want, hoping that someday we will rebuild the tombs," Tandina said.
Timbuktu resident Hamed Mohamed said the group destroyed the tombs of Sidi Elmety, Mahamane Elmety and Cheick Sidi Amar, all in the west of the city.
Tandina and other witnesses said Ansar Dine had on Saturday destroyed the mausoleums of three local saints - Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi El Mokhtar and Alfa Moya - and at least seven tombs.
The attack came days after UNESCO placed Timbuktu on its list of heritage sites in danger and will recall the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of two 6th-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.Last Mod: 01 Temmuz 2012, 16:05