UNESCO moved Timbuktu to its list of heritage sites in danger just days ago; the Malian city now more likely belongs on a list of heritage sites in peril. Reuters reports that al-Qaeda-linked Islamists today began attacking local saints' mausoleums, which they consider idolatrous. Armed with Kalashnikovs and using pick-axes and hoes, "they have already completely destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud and two others," said a local journalist. "They said they would continue all day and destroy all 16. The population is just looking on helplessly. "
Reuters explains that the Islamist Ansar Dine group adheres to strict sharia, and frowns upon the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam. A member of parliament told Reuters that the attacks seem to be "a direct reaction to the UNESCO decision" to move the city to its endangered list at the Malian government's request. As for the aforementioned Mahmoud's burial place, "The mausoleum doesn't exist anymore and the cemetery is as bare as a soccer pitch," says a local. (Read more UNESCO stories.)