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Malian Extremist Prosecuted for Destroying Timbuktu’s Cultural Sites Pleads Guilty in Historic International Court Case

"I am really sorry, I am really remorseful, and I regret all the damage that my actions have caused."

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi has become the first person to face criminal charges in International Criminal Court for destroying cultural heritage site as well as the first defendant to plead guilty in the Hague on Monday.


Al-Mahdi—alleged to be a member of Ansar Dine, a Tuareg movement with ties to al-Qaeda that subscribes to an extremist version of sharia law—has admitted to directing his followers to demolish 16 cultural mausoleums and a mosque, deemed UNESCO World Heritage sites, in the ancient city Timbuktu, using pickaxes and chisels in 2012. He says the rebel group viewed the monuments from the Malian city’s history as an intellectual and spiritual capital as sacrilegious.

In 2015, the ICC issued a warrant for al-Mahdi’s arrest “for war crimes of intentionally directing attacks against historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion, including nine mausoleums and one mosque” in Timbuktu.

“I am really sorry, I am really remorseful, and I regret all the damage that my actions have caused,” Mahdi tells the court after pleading guilty. “I would like to give a piece of advice to all Muslims in the world, not to get involved in the same acts I got involved in, because they are not going to lead to any good for humanity.”

The ICC typically prosecutes cases pertaining to human rights abuse and genocide, so it’s especially historic for the tribunal to try someone for the destruction of cultural monuments, particularly African monuments. Hmm, the destruction and looting of Benin City by British soldiers in 1897 comes to mind here. Who’s going to get prosecuted for doing that?

Al-Mahdi faces up to 30 years in prison, however The Guardian reports that his attorneys have struck an agreement with prosecutors to whittle the term down to between nine and 11 years.

To learn more about Al-Mahdi’s trial, watch this video from AJ+ below.

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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

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The Ghanaian artist releases the new video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," an entirely iPhone-recorded track.

Jojo Abot is rounding out a strong year which has seen her tour South Africa, release the NGIWUNKULUNKULU EP and work with institutions like the New Museum, Red Bull Sound Select and MoMA on her art and performances.

Jojo is now sharing her latest music video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," a song featured on her iPhone-only production project, Diary Of A Traveler.

"Nye Veve Sese is an invitation to let go of the burden of pain and suffering that keeps us from becoming our best and greatest selves," a statement from Jojo's team reads. "Asking the question of why pain is pleasurable to both the one in pain and the source of the pain. Often time the two being one and the same."

Watch her new "meditative piece," which was shot in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, below.

Jojo Abot will be playing her final US show of the year in New York City alongside Oshun on October 26 at Nublu 151. Grab your tickets here.

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