The West African country of Mali, which has seen increased instability since NATO helped topple the Qaddafi regime in nearby Libya last summer, is facing renewed violence from Islamists in the northern city of Timbuktu. Ansar Dine, a group linked to Al-Qaeda, has apparently broken off from the Tuareg rebels with which they initially invaded the north of Mali, and begun to destroy centuries-old historical sites in Timbuktu. The Associated Press reports:
The Islamic faction, known as Ansar Dine, or "Protectors of the Faith," seized control of Timbuktu last week after ousting the Tuareg rebel faction that had invaded northern Mali alongside Ansar Dine's soldiers three months ago. Over the weekend, fighters screaming "Allah Akbar" descended on the cemeteries holding the remains of Timbuktu's Sufi saints, and systematically began destroying the six most famous tombs.
Reached by telephone in an undisclosed location in northern Mali, a spokesman for the faction said they do not recognize either the United Nations or the world court.
"The only tribunal we recognize is the divine court of Shariah," said Ansar Dine spokesman Oumar Ould Hamaha.
The parallel with the Taliban's historical site wrecking ways in Afghanistan did not go unnotcied:
Shamil Jeppie, who heads the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, says that the destruction in Mali is analogous to the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan. The Wahabi interpretation of Islam that Ansar Dine — like the Taliban — espouses is a narrow version of the faith, and stands in contrast to what he says is the history of Islamic learning.
"It's a real loss for people in the town, in the region and on the continent," said Jeppie. "Timbuktu was a center of Islamic learning, a very significant center — there is lots of internal and external evidence of this. But Ansar Dine is ignorant of this. For them, there is only one book and it's the Quran. All this other (Islamic) learning is inconsequential to them," he said.
Timbuktu, of course, was once a major tourist attraction in Africa, but that's irrelevant for these Islamists. "We are against tourism. They foster debauchery," their spokesperson said. Demolishing historical relics, on the other hand, not debauchery at all, apparently.
And what story of the spectacularly unintended consequences of military adventurism wouldn't be complete without some contextless agitation for American intervention? From The Hill:
[T]he Obama administration is under pressure to restore democracy and territorial integrity to the country [of Mali], which has turned into a hotbed for Islamic insurgents linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
"No matter how difficult this matter is to address," said panel Chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), "there are too many people affected for the United States to fail to provide leadership in the effort to solve this political-social crisis."
Ignoring, it would seem, those people affected by U.S. leadership in the past (say, by overthrowing Qaddafi without considering where all those mercenaries, Islamists and weapons that Qaddafi controlled would end up).