Mali:Islamist Rebels Declare to Destroy Timbuktu Mausoleums
Bamako-- Islamist rebels controlling the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu have vowed to smash every mausoleum in the city following weekend destruction of six of the century old shrines, in the wake of international outcry.
Six mausoleums of Islamic saints revered by Sufi Muslims were reported destroyed over the weekend by the local Ansar Dine Islamist group which regarding them as idolatrous.
"Building on graves is contrary to Islam. We are destroying the mausoleums because it is ordained by our religion,"
Mali’s government has condemned the destructions. Oumar Ould Hamaha, spokesman for the group told Reuters news agency by phone. “We are subject to religion and not to international opinion”, he added.
The militants fought alongside the Tuareg separatists for control of northern territory they want independent, but have since fallen out and driven out their former allies.
Local sources told news agencies that three mausoleums were smashed on Saturday and a further three on Sunday.
Mali's government has condemned the "destructive fury” which it termed as being, comparable to “war crimes", calling on the UN to take action to stop the crimes against the country’s architectural treasures.
The International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who described the destructions as amounting to “war crime”, calling for its end.
"My message to those involved in these criminal acts is clear: stop the destruction of the religious buildings now. This is a war crime which my office has authority to fully investigate," she was quoted saying by the AFP news agency.
A meeting by the UN’s cultural body Unesco in St Petersburg, Russia heard the call by the Malian government and has appealed to those engaged in the conflict in Timbuktu to exercise responsibility.
Residents in the city have reported that the Islamist fighters have also threatened to destroy mosques that are claimed to be built on the tombs.
"What shocks me the most is the presence of foreigners among them who do it with mockery while shouting Allah Akbar," Timbuktu resident Hamed Mohamed told Reuters.
Ansar Dine is reportedly made up of Islamist fighters from Mali and other African states including Algeria and Nigeria.
The UN Security Council last week said it will support military intervention by Mali’s neighbours to counter the fighting that has raised fear of Mali becoming a potential launchpad for Jihadi actions.
Twin Bomb Church Attack Leave 17 Dead
At least 17 people have died in separate coordinated bomb and gun attacks on two churches in the northeastern Kenyan town of Garissa on Sunday, police say.
The weekend attacks are the latest in a wave of insurgent attacks that have rocked the country since it sent its troops into Somalia last October in hunt for the al-Shabab militia it blames for several kidnappings in its territory.
Police say up to seven men clad in balaclavas were involved in the attack on the dusty quiet town 140km from the Somali border, which serves as the military base for the operations against al-shabab.
The assailants who struck the churches 3 km apart at 10am in the morning are said to have hurled grenades before opening fire at the congregation during church service.
At the AIC [African Inland Church] where 10 people were reported dead, gunmen shot two police officers outside, before attacking the congregation inside with grenade and gunfire. The second attack at a catholic church, two grenades were thrown but one failed to go off, injuring three people.
"We have not arrested any suspects, but we have reports that five suspects were involved in the AIC attack in a combination of grenade and shooting, while two suspects were involved in the Catholic church attack," said deputy regional police chief Philip Ndolo.
Kenyan Red Cross chief Abbas Gullet said other victims who included children died on the way to hospital, taking the number killed to 17, where at least 40 others were wounded, 10 of them being in critical conditions.
The attack has not been claimed so far by anyone, but it has been blamed on members or supporters of the Somali militants linked to the international terror group, al-Qaeda. This follows after four foreign aid workers were abducted from the Dadaab refugee camp two days earlier, by gunmen killing a Kenyan.
Kenyan army officials say that the aid workers with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) have been released and are safe following a joint rescue operation by the Kenyan and Somali troops.
Last weekend a grenade attack at a night club in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa left three people dead, a day after the US embassy had warned of an imminent attack on the city.
The Vatican has described Sunday attacks as "horrible and very worrying".
Security in many border points has been reinforced as a delegation of government officials led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited the town Monday.
Al-shabab which has since been driven out of the influential Somali capital of Mogadishu by African Union troops continues to claim control over swathes of territory in southern and central regions.