Just days after the United Nations approved the training of a force of West African soldiers to try to retake Mali, the Islamic rebels showed their contempt and disregard for the UN action by continuing their destruction of historic mausoleums in Timbuktu.
The rebels claim that the mausoleums are an affront to Allah and they continued acts they began over the summer.
“Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn’t like it,” Abou Dardar, leader of the Islamist Ansar Dine group, told AFP. “We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area.”
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, condemned the destruction of the sites.
She was “deeply shocked by the brutal destruction of mausoleums and holy shrines in Timbuktu,” according to a statement from her office.
“Their destruction is a tragedy not only for the people of Mali, but for the whole world,” the statement said.
Since Mali’s president Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in March, the north and east of the country have been under the control of Tuareg rebels and militias linked to Al Qaeda.
Under international pressure to try to stabilize the north African country of Mali and stop Al-Qaeda connected terrorist groups from spreading to other countries and into nearby Europe, the UN Security Council approved plans last week for European nations to train a force of West African troops to secure the region—though analysts aren’t hopeful that such an effort has any chance of succeeding.
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U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice dismissed the plans as useless, though the U.S. voted for the measure anyway.
The force would likely consist of about 3,300 soldiers from West Africa and the training probably wouldn’t be complete until September of next year.
The soldiers would come mainly from Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso, although Ivory Coast President Alassane Outtara told reporters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja last month that other West African countries and two or three non-African states may also contribute forces.
There have been reports in the north of forced marriages, forced prostitution, widespread rape, and women being sold as “wives” for less than $1,000. Islamists in the northern city of Gao today announced they had amputated two people’s hands.
Before this weekend’s destruction, rebels had already have also destroyed half of the World Heritage-listed tombs and mausoleums in the town of Timbuktu, claiming they violated Sharia law and promoted idolatry among Muslims. In the view of the UN, the destruction of the shrines could be considered war crimes; the International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary inquiry into the alleged atrocities.