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Mali Islamists destroy more saints’ tombs in Timbuktu: witnesses

Islamists controlling northern Mali were destroying more Muslim saints' tombs Thursday in the ancient city of Timbuktu, witnesses said, in the latest attack on the world heritage sites considered blasphemous by the jihadists.

“Currently, the Islamists are in the process of destroying the tombs of Kabara,” a neighborhood in the south of the city, a witness said.

The resident said there were three ancient tombs in Kabara.

“They are destroying the first tomb with pickaxes and other tools and saying they are going to destroy all the tombs,” he said.

Another resident confirmed the report and said the Islamists had arrived in the area “in three vehicles, some of them armed”.

In July, Islamists from Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) -- an armed group that controls Timbuktu along with Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb -- drew condemnation for smashing seven tombs of ancient Muslim saints as well as the “sacred door” to a 15th-century mosque.

Islamists also destroyed tombs in the northern towns of Goundam and Gao in September.

Ansar Dine began their campaign of destruction after UN cultural organization UNESCO put Timbuktu on its list of endangered world heritage sites.

They have also threatened to destroy the city’s three ancient mosques, one of which dates back to 1327.