Wearing a dark suit and striped tie, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi stood and calmly told judges he was entering the guilty plea “with deep regret and great pain” and advised Muslims around the world not to commit similar acts, saying “they are not going to lead to any good for humanity”.
Al Mahdi led a group of radicals that destroyed 14 of Timbuktu’s 16 mausoleums in 2012 because they considered them “totems of idolatry”.
The one-room structures that house the tombs of the city’s great thinkers were on the World Heritage list.
Al Mahdi was the first suspect to face an ICC charge of deliberately attacking religious or historical monuments and became the first person to plead guilty at the court since its establishment in 2002.
Prosecutors say Al Mahdi was a member of Ansar Dine, an Islamic extremist group with links to al Qaeda that held power in northern Mali in 2012.