DAKAR, Senegal — Islamists who have taken control of one of Africa's most historic cities, Timbuktu, smashed the wooden door of an old mosque Monday, continuing a campaign of destruction of religious monuments that has drawn condemnation from the United Nations and International Criminal Court.
Two carloads of bearded men wearing turbans pulled up early Monday at the Sidi Yahya mosque, one of three centuries-old mosques in the historic city in Mali, according to several witnesses reached by telephone. Armed with axes, the men took about 40 minutes to destroy the mosque's wooden door, the witnesses said.
"I asked them why they were doing it," said Cisse Baba, a high official at another of Timbuktu's mosques who saw the destruction. "They said, 'People believe that if that door is opened, the world will end' "— an un-Islamic superstition, the men explained, that had to be disproved.
"The door was on the ground," Baba said. "It has been there for more than a century. The entire city of Timbuktu is shocked."
Over the weekend, the Islamists of Ansar Dine — the group that has controlled Timbuktu and much of northern Mali since a coup d'etat and a successful revolt against the central authority in March — destroyed at least a half-dozen above-ground mausoleums of religious leaders venerated in Timbuktu as saints, witnesses said.