Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was a former rebel who is currently pleading guilty for the destruction of Timbuktu cultural sites in Mali.
Ahmad is being tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Hague, Netherlands, where he took responsibility for his actions, saying he was sorry and asking for forgiveness.
In 2012, the accused led a rebel group to destroy shrines which were part of a world heritage site in Mali.
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi’s case will be the first of its kind with regards to cultural destruction. Likewise, report notes that this is the first time a rebel tried in an international court willingly pleaded guilty for his crimes.
“I am really sorry, I am really remorseful, and I regret all the damage that my actions have caused.”
“I would like to give a piece of advice to all Muslims in the world, not to get involved in the same acts I got involved in, because they are not going to lead to any good for humanity.”- Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi.
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was a prominent member of Ansar Dine (linked to al-Qaeda), an Islamist group that operated in Timbuktu for months. He led his followers to destroy 9 mausoleums and a mosque.
Ahmad is largely viewed as a religious scholar. The idea behind the destruction was to keep the people from praying at the destroyed cultural cum religious heritage. He made his followers storm the sites with their weapons-Pickaxes and chisels.
The repentant rebel is being charged for war crimes which could land him a 30-year jail term.
International bodies like the UNESCO registered their loss as a result of the 2012 destruction. Supporting the claims of disappointment over the incident were the views of Human Right groups.
According to them the destruction of the cultural sites also had a dent on “social, cultural and historical fabric of communities.”
Ahmad’s fate will be decided after the trial which will be concluded by the end of this week.