Even as the residents of Mali's fabled desert city of Timbuktu were jubilant as French-led forces drove the Islamist militants away, fears soared for the city's cultural heritage. A building housing between 60,000 and 100,000 manuscripts from the ancient Muslim world and Greece was set aflame, and some items smuggled out, during the Islamists' brutal 10-month rule. The Ahmed Baba Centre for Documentation and Research's building was opened in 2009 following a bilateral agreement with South Africa to promote the conservation, research and promotion of the manuscripts as African heritage. Timbuktu, a town so etched into Western imagination as a metaphor for exotic remoteness, that many never knew it really existed until its seizure by radical Islamists in April 2012 thrust it into the spotlight
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