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BAMAKO — Members of Timbuktu’s Arab community said Wednesday they have set up an armed brigade to prevent further destruction of the tombs of ancient Muslim saints by Islamists occupying northern Mali.

"Today we have a vigilance brigade so that no one touches the mausolea of Araouane and Gasser-Cheick," said Tahel Ould Sidy, leader of the unit, referring to two tombs in the greater Timbuktu region.

"We are armed and there is the required number of people," he added.

"We are not going to allow people who know nothing about Islam to come and destroy our treasures. I studied in Mauritania and Saudi Arabia, no one tells us in the Koran that we should destroy tombs."

 

Members of Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), an Al-Qaeda-linked armed group, have been destroying tombs.

A child holds a gun as he accompanies Islamists who have been destroying ancient sites in Timbuktu. Read more.