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Erasing History: Ancient Timbuktu Manuscripts, One Written in Hebrew, Torched By Malian Islamists

Ancient manuscripts, Timbuktu. Photo credit: AP

Ancient manuscripts, Timbuktu. Photo credit: AP

If the ongoing excavations at the Temple Mount -- designed to purge all Judaic artifacts, and hence, ancestral link to Jerusalem -- are any indication, Islamists seem to be good at destroying ancient relics in their attempt to rewrite history. Such is the case in Mali, where Islamic terrorists torched the Ahmed Baba Institute, where priceless manuscripts of Timbuktu, including one written in Hebrew, had been preserved for posterity. 

According to Mayor Ousmane Halle, the library, which housed thousands of invaluable manuscripts dating back to the 13th century and documenting everything from poetry, music, astronomy and even women's rights, was set ablaze by insurgents as they fled French and Malian forces. While most were written in Arabic, one of the manuscripts, reportedly buried in a wooden trunk, was written in Hebrew

"It's truly alarming that this has happened," Halle told The Associated Press from Bamako. "They torched all the important ancient manuscripts. The ancient books of geography and science. It is the history of Timbuktu, of its people." 

Researchers had been in the process of duplicating the manuscripts electronically when the newly-built facility was burned to the ground. Only a tiny fraction were saved.

Halle recalled the events of Saturday, saying that al Qaeda terrorists shot a man to death and set fire to the governor’s office, town hall, and two museum buildings. 

Since Islamists set siege to northern Mali some ten months ago, sharia law has reigned supreme. Concerts have been banned, musicians have been harassed and forced to flee, their instruments destroyed and public amputations and executions abound.  

French Col. Thierry Burkhard, chief military spokesman in Paris, said that his forces had yet to engage in combat with the Islamists who rule the area, but that his paratroopers and ground forces have quietly claimed the city. 

"There was an operation on Timbuktu last night that allowed us to control access to the town," Col. Burkhard told the AP Monday. "It's up to Malian forces to retake the town."

Timbuktu natives, meanwhile, hope the French troops will remain to provide protection and help Malian soldiers hold the town.

"Frankly, if they secure the city today, I am ready to return immediately to Timbuktu," Nana Toure, a native, said. "French troops must not leave us alone then because those (Islamists) who fled may come back and cause problem to us. French troops have to stay a bit to stabilize the place."

The method to the terrorists' madness is simple: by destroying any trace of culture, be it ancient or modern, world history will be erased, thereby providing a clean slate upon which a new, Islamist one can be written.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 


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