BAMAKO - Islamist militants destroyed two tombs on Tuesday at the famous 14th century Djingareyber mosque in Timbuktu, classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site, residents said.

About a dozen militants arrived in an armored four-wheel drive truck, armed with pickaxes and hoes. They fired in the air to intimidate people and started smashing the tombs, said Ibrahim Cisse, who witnessed the scene.

"They blocked the two main roads leading to the mausoleums. When they saw people gathering for a ceremony nearby, they began firing shots in the air," said another resident, Mahamad ould Ibrahim.

The new destruction comes after attacks last week on other historic and religious landmarks in Timbuktu that UNESCO called "wanton destruction".

Islamists of the Ansar Dine group say the centuries-old shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam are idolatrous.

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