BAMAKO, Mali: A tourism official says that militants destroyed four mausoleums in Timbuktu yesterday.
The director of Mali's Timbuktu tourism office, Sane Chirfi, said that Ansar Dine rebels linked to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) tore down the mausoleums, which were historic but not included on the United Nations list of World Heritage sites. The mausoleums housed the remains of Muslim scholars and teachers who are revered by the Timbuktu population.
Since taking control of Timbuktu earlier this year, the militants have destroyed seven of the 16 mausoleums listed as world heritage sites. Some date back to the 14th century.
According to many residents, the destruction of the graves is the rebels' reaction to the recent UN resolution calling for an international military intervention to remove the rebels from northern Mali.
Meanwhile, militants in northern Mali said Saturday they have carried out fresh amputations and warned of more to come, just days after the UN approved plans for an African-led military intervention force to take back the region.
The amputations were seen as a sign the armed rebel groups which seized the north of the west African state earlier this year are unfazed by the green-light for the operation, which planners say cannot be launched before September next year.
"We cut off the hands of two people on Friday. Eight others will soon share the same fate," said Moctar Barry, a leader of the rebel group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), controlling the northern city of Gao.
His claims were confirmed by witnesses, with one resident saying the amputees had committed theft.
"I saw one of them, they gave him an injection before the amputation. He cried out. Both amputees are now at the hospital," another resident told AFP.
Gao lawmaker Abdou Sidibe blamed the amputations on "the international community's laxness," saying its indecision over whether to intervene to reconquer Mali's north were making the rebels feel invincible.
"The international community needs to know that it is its hesitation over intervening, or no, in northern Mali that is encouraging the rebels to show they are at home and are not afraid of anything," Sidibe said.
The amputations took place a day after the Security Council approved plans for the African-led 3,300 troop intervention but vowed to work toward a peaceful solution for the Mali crisis.
Al-Qaeda linked groups and other militants have been controlling regions in northern Mali for months, in a conflict that has so far displaced more than 400,000 people, according to the UN.
Algeria, a military power player in the Sahel, has called for a political solution to the Mali crisis, a position also backed by the United Nations.
On Friday, the 15-member Security Council insisted that military force could only be used after political efforts have been exhausted.