In this Friday April 4, 2014 file photo, Mohamed Maouloud Ould Mohamed, caretaker of the tombs at Timbuktu’s mausoleums, prays at a damaged tomb in Timbuktu, Mali. (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed, File)
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War crimes judges will deliver a historic judgement Tuesday against a Malian extremist who admitted attacking Timbuktu's fabled shrines, in a case which could send a strong message against cultural destruction.As the head of the so-called Hisbah or "Manners Brigade," it was Mahdi, a former teacher and Islamic scholar, who gave the orders to ransack the site.Prosecutors say Mahdi, born in 1975, was a member of the Ansar Dine, one of the extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which seized the northern territory before being mostly chased out by a French-led military intervention in January 2013 .Prosecutors have asked for a jail term of between nine and 11 years, which they said would recognize both the severity of the crime and the fact that Mahdi was the first person to plead guilty before the court.It has been a trial of firsts: Mahdi is the first extremist hauled before the tribunal; the first person tried for the conflict in Mali and it is the first case focusing on cultural destruction as a war crime.Mahdi has agreed not to appeal whatever sentence is passed when the judges deliver their verdict on Tuesday.
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