BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The International Criminal Court made a symbolic reparations payment of 1 euro to Malian officials on Tuesday, after paying for the restoration of historic mausoleums in Timbuktu that had been destroyed by Islamic extremists.
The ceremony in Bamako coincides with a new three-year project to further secure the mausoleums, drawing from about 2.7 million euros ($3.14 million) in reparations from an ICC victims’ fund.
“These mausoleums are not only religious, but they also symbolize the social cohesion of the city of Timbuktu,” said Harber Kounta, speaking on behalf of the community in northern Mali at Tuesday’s event.
Authorities say the destruction of the World Heritage-listed sites also was a financial blow to Timbuktu residents, crippling tourism in the fabled desert city.
Islamic extremists seized control of Timbuktu and other towns across northern Mali in 2012. Later that year the jihadists used pickaxes to destroy the mud-brick mausoleums that covered the saints’ tombs, condemning the buildings as totems of idolatry.
A French-led military operation forced them from power in Timbuktu the following year though the extremists later regrouped and continue to carry out attacks on Mali and international forces to this day.
One of the extremists, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, was convicted in 2016 at the International Criminal Court and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for attacking nine mausoleums and a mosque door in the city in 2012.
Al Mahdi had been ordered to pay the 2.7 million euros but that money ultimately is coming from an ICC trust fund as Al Mahdi was found to be indigent by the court.
His trial marked the International Criminal Court’s first conviction for destruction of religious buildings or historic monuments, and also the first guilty verdict delivered against a Muslim extremist.
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