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UNESCO condemns Timbuktu destruction

St Petersburg - UNESCO's World Heritage Committee condemned Tuesday the destruction of mausoleums in Mali's Timbuktu, urging the head of the UN cultural body to set up an emergency fund for Mali.

In a statement released Tuesday during its annual meeting in Saint Petersburg, the world heritage committee called for an end to the “repugnant acts” of destruction, citing a decision passed by its members a day earlier.

A traditional mud structure stands in the Malian city of Timbuktu. Most of the priceless ancient books and manuscripts housed in Timbuktu were smuggled to safety when Islamists overran the city. Credit: Reuters

It said that the decision also called on UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to “create a special fund to help Mali in the conservation of its cultural heritage” and to send a mission to assess the damage.

It appealed for contributions from its member states as well as from the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

UNESCO reacted with horror after Islamist extremists destroyed ancient tombs in the legendary city of Timbuktu just days after the body had recognised the sites on its World Heritage list.

The body was due to hold an unusual public protest at 13:30 pm (0930 GMT) Tuesday next to a landmark statue in the centre of historic Saint Petersburg, attended by the Mali culture minister and committee members.

It said the event would “appeal for the preservation of heritage in Mali.”

Speaking Monday after the committee passed its decision on Mali, which was not immediately made public, Mali's Culture and Tourism Minister Diallo Fadima Toure thanked UNESCO for what she called its speedy reaction to the events.

“Mali is delighted with the declaration that has come out of this committee to come up with urgent funds,” the minister said during a meeting broadcast online.

“We can only express our thanks to the international committee for their speedy reaction.”

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