A man has pleaded guilty at the international criminal court (ICC) to the destruction of ancient examples of North African architecture in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu in 2012.
As his historic ICC trial started in The Hague, Ahmad al-Mahdi told judges he was entering the guilty plea “with deep regret and great pain” and advised Muslims around the world not to commit similar acts, saying “they are not going to lead to any good for humanity”.
Prosecutors allege Al Mahdi was a member of Ansar Dine, an Islamic extremist group with links to al-Qaida that ruled northern Mali in 2012. The militants were driven out after nearly a year by the French, who arrested Al Mahdi in 2014 in Niger.
Mahdi led a group of radicals who destroyed 14 of Timbuktu’s 16 mausoleums in 2012 because they considered them to be totems of idolatry. The one-room structures which housed the tombs of the city’s great thinkers were on the UNESCO world heritage list.
The trial is the first at the ICC to cite destroying cultural artefacts as a war crime, and Mahdi is the first ICC defendant accused of war crimes to enter a guilty plea.
Mahdi was joined the jihadis, when they were trying to hire local people to build their credibility.