Morocco denies destruction of carvings

2012-10-18 20:56

Rabat - Morocco's culture ministry on Thursday denied a report that Salafists had destroyed stone carvings dating back more than 8 000 years in the High Atlas mountains.

The report is "totally unfounded", it said in a statement, adding that an investigation had been carried out with local and regional authorities.

"This kind of incident, contrary to our values, cannot take place in Morocco," it said. But such sites "can suffer, like elsewhere, the effects of natural and even human degradation, sometimes through vandalism and trafficking".

Backing up Moroccan media reports, a local rights group said on Wednesday that stone carvings depicting the sun as a pagan divinity had been destroyed by Salafists, or hard-line Sunnis.

"They were destroyed several days ago," Aboubakr Anghir, a member of the Amazigh (Berber) League for Human Rights, said.

"One of the carvings, called 'the plaque of the sun,' predates the arrival of the Phoenicians in Morocco," he said. "It lies in a well-known archaeological site in the Yakour plain south of Marrakesh, 20km from Mount Toubkal.

"There are several Salafist groups active in the region and it's not the first time these pre-Islamic sites have been attacked. We have sent a message to the ministry of culture, but have not yet received a reply," he added.