MALI — Islamist rebels smashed the entrance of a 15th-century Timbuktu mosque on Monday, while their Al-Qaeda allies in northern Mali cut off the key city of Gao by planting landmines all around it, AFP reports.
In Timbuktu, rebels from the Al-Qaeda-allied Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) group continued their destruction of the city’s cultural treasures, defying a chorus of international condemnation.
Some residents sobbed as the Islamists broke down the “sacred door” of one of Timbuktu’s three ancient mosques, Sidi Yahya — closed for centuries due to local beliefs that to open it would bring misfortune.
In Gao meanwhile, two sources said Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its allies had planted mines around the city, with one Tuareg rebel spokesman accusing the militants of taking the city hostage.
Mossa Ag Attaher, spokesman for the Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which until recently shared control of Gao with the Islamists, said the rebels had mined the area.