A centuries-old world heritage site in Mali has been destroyed after the Al-Qaida linked Islamist group, Ansar Dine, attacked it with pick-axes this weekend. The ancient mausoleums of saints were named a Unesco heritage site in danger only a few days before.
The site has played a key role in the Malian government's recent efforts to boost desert tourism; Timbuktu's significance rests on the fact it was a prominent landmark along an old Saharan trading route in the 16th century, and became a seat of learning for the Islamic elite. However, at present the British Commonwealth and Foreign Office advises against all travel to Mali due to the Tuareg rebellion that began in January 2012.
In previous years Mali had become an increasingly popular destination for tourists, including Britons, who were drawn in by the three World Heritage sites at Timbuktu, Djenne and Bandiagara. However a series of kidnappings during the rebellion, which resulted in the murder of western hostages in some cases, has prevented westerners from holidaying in Mali.
In spite of this, the airport and British embassy in Bamako are currently open. Nevertheless, British travellers hopeful of visiting Mali are encouraged to monitor FCO warnings and put off any plans until the situation improves.
For further advice on travelling to Mali see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.
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