Al-Qaeda-linked fighters occupying Timbuktu in northern Mali have destroyed remaining mausoleums in the ancient city using pickaxes, a leader of the group says.

“Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn’t like it,” Abou Dardar, head of Ansar Dine, told the AFP news agency on Sunday. “We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area.”

The smashing of the mausoleum, part of what the fighters say is about defending the purity of their faith against idol worship, follows a United Nations approval of a military force to wrest back control of the conflict-ridden area.

Historians say the rebels’ campaign of destruction is pulverising a valuable part of the history of Islam in Africa.

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