Timbuktu, a city classed as a world heritage site since only 1988, was founded around a thousand years ago by Tuareg nomads. Later it became part of the Mali Empire. Its illustrious mosques and shrines - Djinguereber, Sidi Yahya and Sankore - are among the treasures of Timbuktu.
What has happened to this repository of historic knowledge, or will happen, is very worrying to guardians of scholarship the world over.
When the Ansar Dine Islamists took control of the city last year, they destroyed tombs of Sufi saints which the hardliners condemned as structures of idolatry.
Shortly before this, UNESCO had warned against it, yet to no avail. It sounded the alarm over the sack of Timbuktu.