Suspect in destruction of Timbuktu mausoleums sent to ICC

Suspect involvement in the destruction of religious buildings in Timbuktu has been sent to the International Criminal Court

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An alleged Islamic extremist charged with involvement in the destruction of religious buildings in the historic city of Timbuktu in Mali in 2012 has been arrested and was sent to the International Criminal Court early Saturday to face justice.

Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi, known as Abu Tourab, is the first suspect in the court’s custody charged with the war crime of deliberately destroying religious or historical monuments.

“The people of Mali deserve justice for the attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities,” the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Nesouda, said in a statement.

She called the destruction “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations, and their religious and historical roots.”

Al Faqi was surrendered to the court by Niger based on an arrest warrant issued a week ago. He was transferred to The Hague in the early hours of Saturday. No date was immediately set for his arraignment.

The court said in a statement he was a member of Ansar Dine, a militant group with links to al-Qaida that ruled across northern Mali in 2012.

He is charged in the destruction of 10 historic buildings including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu.

The entire city of Timbuktu is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. At the peak of its influence in the 15th and 16th centuries, Timbuktu counted 180 schools and universities which received thousands of students from all over the Muslim world.

Islamic radicals who overran Timbuktu in 2012 destroyed 14 of the city’s 16 mausoleums, one-room structures that house the tombs of the city’s great thinkers. The extremists condemned the buildings as totems of idolatry.

The militants were driven out after nearly a year by a French military intervention.

Fourteen mausoleums destroyed in 2012 have since been restored by the United Nations.

Prosecutors allege that Al Faqi was linked to an Islamic court set up by extremists in Timbuktu and participated in carrying out its orders.

Mali’s government asked the court in 2012 to investigate crimes committed on its territory. Prosecutors opened an investigation in 2013. Al Faqi is the first suspect detained.

The ICC is a court of last resort that steps in when countries are unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes on their territory.

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