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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 credit should read KELVIN IKPEA/AFP via Getty Images

The Netherlands Returns Nigeria's Centuries-Old Stolen Artefact

The Netherlands has returned to Nigeria a 600-year-old stolen artefact, the Ife Terracotta, which has been received by Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

According to The Guardian Nigeria, the Netherlands has returned a 600-year-old artefact to Nigeria. This comes after the artefact was reportedly smuggled using fraudulent papers through Ghana to the Dutch country. Netherlands ambassador to Nigeria, Harry van Dijk, handed over the Ife Terracotta to Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture. The repatriation of the small but "priceless" Ife Terracotta has been a long journey considering it was reportedly smuggled out of Nigeria in 2019.

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