BAMAKO: Rebels controlling northern Mali on Saturday took a bulldozer to an independence monument in Timbuktu, where they have destroyed many world heritage treasures in recent months, witnesses said.

“At the moment I can see eight rebels with a bulldozer. They are busy destroying Timbuktu’s independence monument,” one witness said. “With the help of a tractor the Islamists are busy destroying the Timbuktu independence monument,” said another witness, speaking to AFP by telephone.

The extremists, who seized control of Mali’s vast north following a disastrous coup in March, began a campaign of destruction of Timbuktu’s cultural treasures in July that prompted an international outcry. They had already removed the head of a horse alongside the monument, as well as destroying the tombs of ancient Muslim saints and the “sacred door” to a 15th-century mosque.

The radicals consider the tombs to be “idolatrous” and have also threatened to destroy the city’s three ancient mosques, one of which dates back to 1327. afp

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