The Hague, Aug 22 (IANS) A man charged with destroying cultural sites in Mali pleaded guilty on Monday during a hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ahmad Al Mahdi is accused of war crimes after allegedly leading an Islamist rebel group in the destruction of religious and cultural sites in the historic city of Timbuktu, Mali, Efe news reported.
“With deep regret and pain,” Al Mahdi pleaded guilty for participating in the destruction of nine historic Sufi shrines and damaging the 500-year-old Sidi Yahya mosque in 2012.
ICC lawyer Fatou Bensouda accused the Mahdi of not only leading the attacks but of physically aiding in some of them.
Mahdi said all the charges brought against him were accurate and asked forgiveness from the Malian people for his actions.
The Unesco world heritage sites were thought of as idolatrous by the Al Qaida-linked Ansar Dine militant Islamist group which occupied swathes of northern Mali, including Timbuktu, for months.
The considerable number of Tuareg members of Ansar Dine have helped garner areas of support in northern Mali, a region that has seen Tuareg rebellions throughout the last century.
Ansar Dine implemented strict Shariah law during their occupation of Timbuktu which included banning music, forcing women to wear burqas and destroying idolatrous shrines and mosques.
Mahdi warned other Muslims against carrying out similar acts, saying that “they are not going to lead to any good for humanity”.
The accused could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.