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Cultural heritage a casualty of war

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Below are the main cases of destruction of cultural heritage during conflicts, following the collapse of the minaret of the ancient Umayyad mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday:

- MALI: In Timbuktu, nicknamed "the City of 333 Saints" and listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, militants from Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith), which follow the hardline Wahhabi strain of Islam, began destroying cultural treasures last June believing them to be "haram" or forbidden.

While fleeing French-led forces that arrived to liberate the city in January 2013, the Islamists torched a building housing thousands of priceless manuscripts from the ancient Muslim world and Greece. Most of the manuscripts had been stored away.

- LIBYA: Islamist hardliners have wrecked Sufi holy shrines across the country, in August 2012 bulldozing part of the mausoleum of Al-Shaab Al-Dahman, close to the centre of the Libyan capital.

The demolition came a day after hardliners blew up the mausoleum of Sheikh Abdessalem al-Asmar in Zliten, 160 kilometres (100 miles) east of the capital.

Another mausoleum -- that of Sheikh Ahmed al-Zarruq -- was destroyed in the port city of Misrata, 200 kilometres east of Tripoli.

- IRAQ: After US forces swept into the Iraqi capital in 2003, at least 32,000 items were looted from 12,000 archeological sites across the country. In Baghdad, 15,000 other items were stolen from the National Museum.

- AFGHANISTAN: In March 2001, the supreme chief of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, ordered the destruction of two giant buddhas at Bamiyan in the east of the country. The 1,500-year-old archaeological treasures and images were judged to be anti-Islamic.

For 25 days, hundreds of Taliban from across the country set about destroying, with rockets and dynamite, the gigantic statues.

- THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA: In late 1991, during the wars which ravaged the former Yugoslavia, the mediaeval city of Dubrovnik, ranked in UNESCO's world heritage site, was devastated.

The national library of Sarajevo, the jewel of Austro-Hungarian architecture of the 19th century and symbol of the Bosnian capital, was destroyed in August 1992 by Bosnian Serb artillery.

Considered as a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, the city of Mostar's old bridge was destroyed by Bosnian Croat forces in November 1993. The bridge has since been rebuilt.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130425/cultural-heritage-casualty-war