Ansar Dine attacked Timbuktu religious shrines and mosque with pick axes

Ansar Dine attacked Timbuktu religious shrines and mosque with pick axes

New York City : NY : USA | Jul 04, 2012 at 9:49 AM PDT
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Ansar Dine fighters destroy Timbuktu shrines

Al-Qaeda attacked 15th centrury shrines and mosques in Timbuktu with "pick axes", according to various reports streaming in from Mali.

The Al Qaeda sect is destroying shrines in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu constitues "a possible war crime” (see video: Timbuktu shrine destruction a 'war crime': ICC prosecutor ).

The militant Islamists are reported to have destroyed at least “seven relics” so far, including the world famous Sidi Yahya, considered one of Timbuktu’s three great mosques. They appeared to have targeted the destruction of these idols specifically...


The mosque was built around 1400 and is part of the city’s storied history as one of the centers of Islam in Africa during the 15th and 16th centuries, earning Timbuktu the nickname of the “City of 333 Saints,” according to UNESCO.

“They came with pickaxes, they cried, ‘Allah’ and broke the door,” a former tour guide for the once-popular tourist destination told Agence France-Press. “It is very serious. Some of the people watching began crying” (see article: Al Qaeda Destroys Timbuktu Shrines, Ancient City’s Spirit ).


The attackers were identified as “Ansar Dine”, also known as “Defenders of the Faith”, a radical al-Qaeda terrorist affiliate organization in Mali.

Ansar Dine also transliterated Ançar Dine, Ançar Deen or Ansar ad-Din is an Islamist group led by Iyad Ag Ghaly – a one man wave of terror across Mali.

Ag Ghaly, one of the most prominent leaders of a Tuareg rebellion in the 1990s, is accused of having links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Islamist groups, a splinter group which is led by his cousin Hamada Ag Hama. Ansar Dine wants the imposition of strict Sharia law across Mali.

The group number one stated goal or mission is to impose sharia law across Mali, including the Azawad region (see video: Ansar Dine fighters destroy Timbuktu shrines ).

Witnesses have said that Ansar Dine fighters wear long beards (also know as “the long beards” or “beaded ones”). The group fly’s black flags with the Shahada (Islamic creed) inscribed in white lettering.

According to different reports, unlike the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Ansar Dine does not seek independence as such, but rather “to keep Mali intact and convert it into a rigid theocracy”, according to some reports.

This isn’t the first time the group has attacked an Islamic holy site. In the summer of 2012, members of Ansar Dine broke down the doors of the Sidi Yahya Mosque, which according to ancient legend were not to be opened until the last days.

They claimed that the reverence for the site was idolatrous, but offered 50,000 CFA (roughly $100 US dollars) to repair the mosque wreck. Fighters made reference to "destroying the mystery" of the ancient entrance, according to one witness (see article: Defiant Mali Islamists pursue wrecking of Timbuktu ).


We asked around about this “mystery of the ancient entrance”, and have been given different interpretations of what this means exactly…

See background video: Al Jazeera speaks to UNESCO about Timbuktu shrine destruction

Robert Tilford

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The bearded one
One of "the bearded ones", a Ansar Dine fighter who rejoices after destroying a religious shrine in Timbuktu...(picture credit Telegraph newpaper).
RobertTilford01 is based in La Crosse, Kansas, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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