(FILES) This file photo taken on February 4, 2016 shows United Nations peacekeepers standing next to the mausoleum of Alpha Moya in Timbuktu. / AFP / SةBASTIEN RIEUSSEC
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Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi, whose war crime trial in The Hague opens Monday, is a quiet Koranic scholar turned ruthless enforcer for extremists when they occupied the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu.Born around 40 years ago in Agoune, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Timbuktu, the curly-haired former teacher was steeped in Islamic learning from a young age.When the extremists swaggered into town, Mahdi was working at an association for Muslim youths, providing them with religious advice, and was well known for his rigid principles and advocacy of sharia law.Mahdi became the head of the "Hisbah", or morality police, which upheld the extremists' narrow interpretation of the Koran's teachings.By late June in 2012, Mahdi had grown frustrated by the townspeople's unwillingness to desist from their long-held practice of worshipping Timbuktu's shrines of Muslim saints.Ansar Dine's actions, led by Mahdi, shocked "humanity's collective consciousness", said prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the Hague in March, leading to an unusual type of war crime charge.
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