Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi confessed in August to destroying ancient shrines, saying he was really 'sorry'
War crimes judges on Tuesday sentenced a former militant who admitted wrecking holy shrines during Mali's 2012 conflict to nine years in prison, in the first such case to focus on destruction of cultural heritage.
During a brief trial at the International Criminal Court in August Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi asked for forgiveness and said he had been swept up in an "evil wave" by al-Qaeda and the Ansar Dine groups that briefly seized control of the ancient sites.
In June and July of 2012 "10 of the most important and well-known sites in Timbuktu were attacked and destroyed. ... a war activity aimed at breaking the soul of the people," said presiding Judge Raul Pangalangan.
Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of 9 to 11 years for al-Mahdi, who sat quietly in a gray suit, nodding as the verdict was read aloud.
Judges said the sentence took into account al-Mahdi's expression of remorse and cooperation with the court.
Mahdi admitted to involvement in the destruction of key historic mausoleums and religious sites in Timbuktu dating from Mali's 14th-century golden age as a trading hub and centre of Sufi Islam, a branch of the religion seen as idolatrous by some hardline Muslim groups.
This file photo taken on August 22, 2016 shows alleged Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist leader Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi looking on during an appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (AFP)