Most of ‘Holy grail’ ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu saved from Islamists’ arson

Washington, Feb. 1: The majority of historic manuscripts that were burned by fleeing Islamist extremists who torched a public library in Mali’s Timbuktu are safe, according to experts involved in the preservation of the ancient texts.

After French-led forces on Sunday recaptured Timbuktu, the northern city of Mali on the edge of the Sahara desert, the city’s mayor Halle Ousmane Cisse had made a shocking announcement.

According to Discovery News, he reported that fleeing Islamic militants had set several buildings on fire, burning thousands of priceless manuscripts kept inside the structures.

Local historian and archaeologist Abdullahi Cisse told reporters that for these Islamists, these Jihadis, there is only the Koran and everything else is worthless.

Yet the world’s cultural community took a sigh of relief after experts confirmed that about 300,000 texts existing in Timbuktu remained unharmed.

Although up to 2,000 manuscripts may have been destroyed in the fire at the Ahmed Baba Institute, a government-funded research centre for the study and conservation of the scripts, the vast majority of the city’s volumes appear to have escaped destruction.

Mahmoud Zouber told TIME that they were put in a very safe place, and guaranteed that the manuscripts are totally secure.

Before the 10-month occupation by the Islamist radicals, Zouber was Mali’s presidential aide on Islamic affairs.

According to the report, just as Afghanistan saved the Bactrian treasure from the Taliban destruction by hiding the most valuable items in a vault deep beneath Kabul’s presidential palace, Malian preservationists moved thousands of manuscripts out of the Ahmed Baba Institute to safe and hidden locations.

Shamil Jeppie, director of the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project at the University of Cape Town, told TIME that ‘there were a few items in the Ahmed Baba library, but the rest were kept away,’ the report added. (ANI)