UNESCO urges preservation of Timbuktu world heritage site

PARIS, April 3 (Xinhua) — The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova has voiced concern about the risk posed by fighting around the world heritage site of Timbuktu in northern Mali.

“I call on both the Malian authorities and warring factions to respect the country’s heritage and its commitment as a signatory of the 1972 world heritage convention,” she said.

Bokova added that Timbuktu’s outstanding earthen architectural wonders that are the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, must be safeguarded along with the site’s cemeteries and mausolea. “They are essential to the preservation of the identity of the people of Mali and of our universal heritage,” she said.

Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1988, the site bears witness to the golden age of Timbuktu in the 16th century and to a history that stretches back to the 5th century.

According to a UNESCO convention, armies must refrain from using or damaging cultural heritage properties in times of war.

“UNESCO stands ready to share its expertise and experience to help Mali ensure the safeguarding of Timbuktu,” Bokova stated.

According to local reports, rebel forces have entered the site and fired shots. Mali has three other world heritage sites beside Timbuktu: the Old Towns of Djenne, the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) and the Tomb of Askia.

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