UNESCO concerned over looting in historic city of Timbuktu

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ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu

The UN cultural agency is appealing to the authorities in Mali to help prevent loss or destruction to artifacts related to the country's "extraordinary history."

Irina Bokova, head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is concerned that rebels have looted centres in the historic city of Timbuktu containing thousands of ancient books and other documents.

Mali recently swore in an interim president following a military coup in March.

And earlier this year, clashes between government forces and Tuareg rebels resumed in the north of the country resulting in the displacement of thousands of people both within and outside the country.

Dianne Penn reports.

Ms. Bokova was alarmed by reports of rebel takeovers of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research and other cultural institutions in Timbuktu.

She said these centres house ancient documents covering subjects ranging from religion, mathematics, medicine and astronomy, to literature, poetry and architecture.

Timbuktu has a rich heritage as a cultural crossroads and centre of learning, and many of the items date back to what Ms. Bokova referred to as the city's "period of glory" between the 12th and 15th centuries.

The UNESCO chief has appealed to all the relevant authorities, neighbouring governments, Interpol and customs organizations, as well as the art market and collectors, to be on the alert for any items stolen from Timbuktu.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 49″

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