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Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, according to the Saharan town’s mayor, in an incident he described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage.
Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings that held the manuscripts, some of which dated back to the 13th century. They also burned down the town hall, the governor’s office and an MP’s residence, and shot dead a man who was celebrating the arrival of the French military.
More information on the libraries can be found here. If the stories coming out of Timbuktu are true, this is a huge blow to the history of Mali, and of Africa as a whole. These manuscripts were incredibly precious, dating back to the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, when Timbuktu was a centre of knowledge and trade in the arabic world, and contained everything from poetry to literature and Islamic law. This is huge, and incredibly sad.
Edit: See here for an update.