For the first time on record, an International Criminal Court defendant has entered a guilty plea to war crimes. Islamist extremist Ahmad al-Mahdi on Monday admitted to destroying religious monuments in the Mali’s Timbuktu and apologized for the attacks on the holy sites. Mahdi, who led a group of al Qaeda-linked fighters in destroying 14 of the ancient city’s 16 mausoleums in 2012 in an attack on symbols of “idolatry,” stood before judges in The Hague to enter his plea “with deep regret and great pain.” The structures were on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Mahdi urged other Muslims not to pursue similar destruction. “They are not going to lead to any good for humanity,” he said. The trial is also the first to pursue the eradication of cultural artifacts as a war crime.
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