The Organization of Islamic Cooperation yesterday condemned the destruction of a 15th century mosque by rebels in Mali.
The OIC “deplores the destruction of historical sites in Timbuktu, Mali by religious extremists groups,” an OIC statement said, adding that the sites were “part of the rich Islamic heritage of Mali and should not be allowed to be destroyed by … bigoted extremist elements.”
The statement called for “taking necessary measures and appropriate steps for the protection and preservation of the historical sites.”
Mali’s Muslim extremists smashed the entrance of the 15th century mosque yesterday, escalating a campaign of destruction of the city’s cultural treasures despite threats of prosecution for war crimes.
Video footage obtained by Agence France Presse shows turbaned men smashing a mausoleum with pickaxes in a cloud of dust, the mud-brick tomb showing gaping holes in the side with rubble piling up alongside it.
The members of the Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) group believe the shrines to be idolatrous and have threatened to destroy any mosques housing the remains of religious personalities, prompting an outcry from the Bamako government and the international community.
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization website, Sidi Yahya is one of Timbuktu’s three great mosques and was built around 1400, during the city’s golden age as a center of learning.
A former tour guide in the once-popular tourist destination said: “They came with pickaxes and broke the door. It is very serious. Some of the people watching began crying.”
Another man, a relative of a local preacher, said he had spoken to members of Ansar Dine, which occupied the city and the rest of northern Mali in the chaos following a coup in Bamako three months ago. “Some said that the day this door is opened it will be the end of the world and they wanted to show that it is not the end of the world.”
The door on the south end of the mosque has been closed for centuries due to local beliefs that to open it will bring misfortune.