Timbuktu shrine destruction 'totally unjustified': UN
UNITED NATIONS - United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has deplored the destruction of tombs in the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu as "totally unjustified," his spokesman said Sunday, July 1.
Islamist rebels who took control of the northern part of of the African country three months ago consider the shrines to be idolatrous and have wrecked seven in two days, sparking global outrage.
"Such attacks against cultural heritage sites are totally unjustified," the spokesman, Martin Nesirky, quoted Ban as saying. "The secretary-general calls on all parties to exercise their responsibility to preserve the cultural heritage of Mali."
Ban also reiterated his support for ongoing efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and countries in the region to "help the government and people of Mali resolve the current crisis through dialogue."
In a matter of months Mali has gone from one of west Africa's stable democracies to a nation gripped by deadly chaos.
The Islamist rebels from Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) are among the Al-Qaeda-linked armed groups that occupied the north of Mali in the chaos that emerged after a March coup in Bamako.
Mali's government and the international community expressed horror at the destruction in Timbuktu, an ancient desert crossroads and center of learning known as the "City of 333 Saints".
The attacks were reminiscent of the Taliban blowing up the giant Buddhas of the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan -- an ancient Buddhist shrine on the Silk Road and a world heritage site -- in 2001 after branding them un-Islamic. - Agence France-Presse