Mali on Sunday appealed to the United Nations to take action after Mali extremists ravaged shrines in the fabled city of Timbuktu which the UN's cultural body has listed as an endangered site.
"Mali exhorts the UN to take concrete steps to stop these crimes against the cultural heritage of my people," Culture and Tourism Minister Diallo Fadima Toure said in Saint Petersburg in comments translated into English.
Speaking at UNESCO's annual meeting in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, she called for the world to show solidarity and to condemn Saturday's attacks, in an emotional speech which she concluded by saying: "God help Mali."
Islamist militants, swinging pick-axes, destroyed at least three ancient tombs of Muslim saints in a rampage just days after the ancient trading hub was put on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger.
After her speech, the UNESCO meeting observed a minute of silence to mourn the destruction of the sites by Ansar Dine extremists, one of the Islamist groups in control of the vast desert north of Mali since a coup in Bamako.
The attacks were reminiscent of the Taliban blowing up the giant Buddhas of the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan -- an ancient Buddhist shrine on the Silk Road and a world heritage site -- in 2001 after branding them un-Islamic.© ANP/AFP