Islamists destroy struggle monument in Mali

2012-05-23 17:02
Bamako - Islamists in control of northern Mali on Wednesday destroyed a monument dedicated to those who died in the struggle against dictator Moussa Traore in 1991, witnesses told AFP.

They also whipped youths who were seen smoking as they strengthen their hold in the region where they have implemented strict Islamic law.

"They first tried to break the monument with tools, but it didn't work," said a teacher in Timbuktu via telephone. "Then they attached a rope to the monument, tying it to a vehicle and driving off, causing it to fall."

The information was confirmed by other residents of the fabled desert city, who said it was Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) militants who had destroyed the monument.

"The monument has fallen. The Aqim and Ansar Dine fighters seemed very happy," one of the witnesses said on condition of anonymity.

A "martyrs monument" was built in nearly all of Mali's main cities in honour of those who died on March 26, 1991 during protests against Traore's regime which were bloodily repressed.

The Islamists have already destroyed the El Farouk monument, a horse and symbol of the ancient city seized with the region's other main towns Gao and Kidal in the days following a coup in Bamako in March.

They also desecrated a holy tomb at a Unesco World Heritage site, raising concern for the rich cultural history of Timbuktu, which has 16 cemeteries and mausolea.

Sometimes called the city of 333 saints, Timbuktu is also home to nearly 100 000 ancient manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century, preserved in family homes and private libraries under the care of religious scholars.

As the Islamists set about implementing their radical vision of Islam, they confiscated numerous cartons of cigarettes at shops in the city.

"They burned the cartons and whipped youths who were smoking," said a witness.

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