AMSTERDAM - An Islamist rebel suspected of attacking mosques and monuments in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu has been handed over to the International Criminal Court, the first ever detained for wrecking cultural heritage.
The court said early on Saturday that the man was handed over by Niger overnight and was now in its seaside detention center in The Hague, seat of the tribunal.
The court has been examining events in Mali since 2012, when Islamist Tuareg rebels seized large parts of the country's north and imposed strict Muslim religious law and began desecrating ancient shrines, mosques and monuments in Timbuktu. French and Malian troops pushed them back the following year.
The court said Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi, known as Abu Tourab, had headed Hesbah, or "Manners' Brigade," in 2012, which helped execute the decisions of the Islamic Court of Timbuktu.
He is accused of directing attacks against nine mausoleums and the Sidi Yahia mosque in the city, which by the 14th century had become a major trading hub and center of learning. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.