UN fears for Timbuktu’s treasures after coup
Timbuktu’s outstanding earthen architectural wonders . . . must be safeguarded.’ UNESCO
PARIS: The ‘‘outstanding architectural wonders’’ in the fabled city of Timbuktu could be damaged in the fighting that has engulfed northern Mali as rebels push forward, the United Nations cultural agency says.
‘‘Timbuktu’s outstanding earthen architectural wonders that are the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, must be safeguarded,’’ the UNESCO director-general, Irina Bokova, said.
She called on the Malian authorities and warring factions to respect the desert country’s heritage, which she said was ‘‘essential to the preservation of the identity of the people of Mali and of our universal heritage’’.
UNESCO’S concern comes as the United States called on rebel forces in northern Mali to lay down arms and for coup leaders to step aside, warning the country’s territorial integrity is at stake.
As Islamist-allied Tuareg rebels rapidly advance through the African nation, a US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said the US was ‘‘deeply concerned’’ and looking at new ways to pressure the coup leaders.
‘‘The United States urgently calls on all armed rebels in the north of Mali to cease military operations that compromise the Republic of Mali’s territorial integrity,’’ Ms Nuland said.
She said while the rebels had ‘‘legitimate political grievances’’, they should wait until the return of a civilian government and seek to settle differences through dialogue instead of violence. ‘‘As civilian leadership is restored in Mali, we also urge all armed rebels to engage in dialogue with the civilian leaders in Bamako to find a non-violent path forward for national elections and peaceful co-existence,’’ Ms Nuland said.
Disgruntled troops swarmed the capital on March 22 and chased the President, Amadou Toumani Toure, out of power, accusing him of failing to supply the army to put down the longrunning Tuareg rebellion.
Tuareg rebels have taken advantage of the chaos to make quick advances. Radical Islamists at the weekend seized control of the fabled trading hub of Timbuktu and said they were imposing sharia.
On Tuesday, the African Union imposed travel bans and ordered assets frozen after the coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, refused international calls to step down.
Timbuktu, which was put on UNESCO’S World Heritage List in 1988, bears witness to the golden age of Timbuktu in the 16th century and to a history that stretches even further back to the 5th century.
Timbuktu had until recently attracted tourists but they have been deterred by kidnappings in the deserts of west Africa by a group with links to al-qaeda.