Since last Friday, French warplanes - and now troops - have been attacking sites in the north and centre of the country in support of Malian forces seeking to dislodge Islamist rebels who last year seized control of the desert north of the country.
The rebels have since fled three key cities in the north, including Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site at a desert crossroads that was an ancient centre of learning. The extremists last year smashed up mausoleums of ancient saints and the entrance to the 15th-century Sidi Yahya mosque in Timbuktu, claiming the sites were blasphemous.UNESCO on Tuesday urged Malian and French forces to protect ancient cultural sites during air raids and ground attacks. It has provided maps showing heritage sites to military planners as well as brochures to be handed out to soldiers on preventing damage to cultural heritage. UNESCO urges forces in Mali to protect heritage sites 15th Jan 2013.