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The ancient shrines and mosques which have helped to make the name Timbuktu known around the world are under threat from the Islamist Ansar Dine militant group which has taken control of the fabled city in northern Mali.

The main collection in the city - with more than 40,000 items, some of them dating from as early as the 10th Century - is held at the Ahmed Baba Institute of High Studies and Islamic Research.

In the last few days, Ansar Dine followers, whose Salafist beliefs condemn the veneration of saints, have been destroying ancient mausoleums. They have also attacked the Sidi Yahya mosque (pictured above) and smashed one of its doors which had been left sealed as it led to the tomb of saints.

Before the arrival of electronic media, the ancient knowledge was preserved by calligraphers like Boubacar Sadeck who specializes in copying 16th Century manuscripts. More.

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