Mali Islamists to continue destroying UNESCO sites

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Islamist rebels said Sunday they will continue to destroy historic sites in Mali's northern city of Timbuktu before they implement strict Shariah law, as Mali's government compared the destruction to "war crimes" and said they would seek international justice.

resident Bouya Ould Sidi Mohamed said the historic city has long had Muslim roots.

"Timbuktu was an Islamic city since the 12th century, and we know what the religion says about the saints' tombs," he said. "Contrary to what the Islamists or the Wahabis of Ansar Dine say, here in Timbuktu, the people don't love the saints like God, but just seek the saints' blessings because they are our spiritual guides."

"The council of ministers has just approved, in principle, the referral to the International Criminal Court and a working group is working to this end," the government said in a statement.

The U.N. cultural agency on Saturday called for an immediate halt to the destruction of three sacred Muslim tombs. Irina Bokova, who heads the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, cited in a statement Saturday reports the centuries-old mausoleums of Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi, Moctar and Alpha Moya had been destroyed.

On Thursday, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, placed the mausoleums of Muslim saints on its list of sites in danger at the request of Mali's government....

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