Islamists have wrecked the seven tombs in Timbuktu, the cultural treasures in the fabled city.
The city is an ancient desert crossroads and centre of learning known as the “City of 333 Saints.”
Reports say the Islamic radicals of Ansar Dine went into the compound of the world-famous Djingareyber mosque and destroyed two mausoleums of Sufi saints.
The radicals reportedly threatened to remove everything that does not comply with what they consider to be strict Islamic rules.
Mali’s government and the international community have expressed horror and outrage at the destruction of cultural treasures in the city.
In DC today, Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States strongly condemns the destruction of Muslim shrines and other religious and historic sites in Timbuktu by Islamic militants, including Ansar al-Dine.
“We are outraged by the continued destruction of these World Heritage Sites and the ongoing intimidation of local populations.” -Ms. Nuland
She stresses that the United States joins UNESCO in urging an immediate end to these destructive and irreversible acts and calls for all parties to protect this invaluable cultural heritage for future generations.
The act is an assault not just on Mali but on the heritage of all Africans, and those responsible for these acts should be brought to justice, Ms. Nuland noted.
“We remain deeply concerned about the situation of the Malian people.” -Ms. Nuland
She says Mali has been a strong partner of the United States in the areas of democracy and governance, economic development, and peace and security.
The US government supports the on-going efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to bring about a return to civilian rule in Mali and to mediate a solution to the rebellion in the north.
“In addition, we appeal to all parties to ensure impartial and unhindered humanitarian access to any and all populations in northern Mali.” -Ms. Nuland
The US strongly strongly insists that all actors in Mali respect human rights and international humanitarian law.
She underlines that the people of Mali deserve to live in a secure environment free from fear and oppression where their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms including the freedoms of religion and of expression are protected and respected.
In June this year, with the recent political instability engulfing Mali, the humanitarian situation is worsening as 320,000 displaced people are in need of aid.
Reports says nearly 320,000 Malians have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries or seek refuge in safer parts of Mali as a result of fighting that resumed in January in the country’s north between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, the proliferation of armed groups in that region, and a deepening crisis due to a coup d’etat in March.
The United Nations refugee agency is warning of a humanitarian catastrophe unless there is a massive scale-up in responding to the needs of hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the magnitude of the emergency, the number of displaced people has contributed to severe malnutrition that requires an urgent increase in the overall response to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
UNHCR stressed that funding is urgently needed to improve conditions for displaced Malians.
In April this year, with its relentless effort to restore constitutional order in conflict-hit Mali, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) continued mediation efforts by signing an agreement with the country’s military junta.
Mali’s junta overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure in a coup.
With the agreement signed by both parties, the military junta agreed to hand over power to the National Assembly president, in return for the lifting of sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and an amnesty of its members from prosecution.
In February this year, soldier mutineers launched a forcible seizure of power from the democratically-elected Government of Mali.
The Security Council called on the soldier mutineers to ensure the safety and security of all Malian officials and demands prompt release of those detained.
The mutineers announced the dissolution of the Government and seized control of the country.
The outbreak of conflict in northern Mali was caused by clashes between Government forces and Tuareg rebels.
Tuareg rebels launched a new rebellion in the north on 17th of January. Since then, troops have clashed with rebels in several northern towns.
Tuareg nomads are present throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Both Mali and Niger have battled Tuareg uprisings in the last decade