Residents of Timbuktu in Mali still recall with horror the sight of jihadists waging a campaign of destruction against the fabled Malian city, but now some say they are ready to forgive an extremist whose trial in The Hague they see as a rare moment of justice.
The jihadist Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi had earlier pleaded guilty.
“We are witnessing a war crime, a crime against humanity since the heritage in question bears the traces of intellectual social political memories of this country, a region of a city that is known as Africa’s center south of the Sahara,” said a Timbuktu resident.
On Tuesday, Al-Faqi will be sentenced on war crimes charges for his role in the destruction of nine of Timbuktu’s holy shrines as well as the door of a revered mosque in 2012.
Under the leadership of UNESCO, the mausoleums were reconstructed last year, while the gate of the Sidi Yahia mosque has just been reinstalled, and the people say they are ready to forgive.
“If he asked for forgiveness, we will accept it because we are believers, we will forgive him, it is not a problem. We just want peace to come, and that justice be done, that’s all,” said another resident.
Human rights activists however complain that sexual crimes were not considered in the case. Some say although Al Faqi’s trial serves as an example, many criminals still evade justice.