The International Criminal Court has ordered an Islamic extremist to pay $3.2 million in restitution for destroying centuries-old religious shrines in Mali.
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was convicted by the court last year for overseeing the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque door with pickaxes and bulldozers in the ancient city of Timbuktu, when extremists briefly seized control of northern Mali in 2012.
In a landmark ruling, the court treated the destruction of the shrines as a war crime when it sentenced Al-Mahdi to nine years in prison. He was facing as many as 30 years in jail, but the court took into account his admission of guilt and expression of remorse.
The shrines date back as far as the 14th century and are listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency. The U.N. agency has since restored the mausoleums.
Known as “the City of 333 Saints,” Timbuktu is regarded as a center of Islamic teaching and key to the spread of Islam across the African continent.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said al-Mahdi’s alleged actions amounted to “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations and their region and historical roots.”
Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said such acts “are a tragedy for all civilized people, and the civilized world must take a stand.”