Islamist militant sentenced to 9 years for role in destruction of Timbuktu shrines

Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi pleaded guilty to the charges last month

Islamist militant sentenced to 9 years for role in destruction of Timbuktu shrines

Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, center, appears at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Image: Patrick Post / AP/Press Association Images

The International Criminal Court has sentenced an Islamist militant to nine years in prison for his role in the destruction of ancient shrines in Timbuktu.

Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi, who is aged about 40, pleaded guilty last month.

The panel of ICC judges unanimously found al Mahdi guilty and handed down the sentence today.

al Mahdi is the first person to face a charge of cultural destruction at the ICC.

He told the court that he was pleading guilty "with deep regret and deep pain", and asked the people of Mali for forgiveness.

Prosecutors said al Mahdi was part of Ansar Dine, a movement that took control of Timbuktu in 2012, along with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

As head of the Hisbah, or "Manners Brigade", al Madhi was accused of directing the attacks on 14 of Timbuktu's 16 World Heritage List mausoleums because they were considered by the group to be symbols of idolatry.

He pleaded guilty to intentionally ordering the attacks on nine shrines and the Sidi Yahia mosque between 30 June and 11 July 2012.