In light of the escalating violence in Mali, UNESCO has recently began to urge armed forces to protect Timbuktu’s historic and religious landmarks. As recently reported, the ongoing conflict has posed a grave and imminent threat to Timbuktu’s cultural heritage.
According to residents of Timbuktu, the Islamic fighters have already committed severe damage the city’s historic and religious landmarks. One such instance of destruction occurred in October of 2012, when the fighters attacked the city’s mausoleums. Fighters reportedly told the residents that “worshiping saints is not right.”
In her statement, director-general of the U.N. agency Irina Bokova stated, “I ask all armed forces to make every effort to protect the cultural heritage of the country, which has already been severely damaged.”
Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage site of “huge cultural significance.” The city was placed on UNESCO’s list of endangered world heritage sites last June, amid the arising armed conflict. Many of the area’s tombs and shrines have already been destroyed by Islamic militants.