News in the Humanosphere: Islamist admits to destroying Timbuktu religious monuments

Sankoré mosque, Timbuktu (Leslie Lewis/flickr)

The first defendant to plead guilty at the international criminal court has apologized to Mali and to mankind for destroying religious monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu. Ahmad al-Mahdi admitted directing the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque door in 2012, when Timbuktu was controlled by rebels and members of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. At the opening of his trial for war crimes in The Hague, he expressed his “deep regret” to the people of Timbuktu, to whom the monuments had been of great religious and cultural importance. “I seek their forgiveness and I ask them to look at me as a son who has lost his way,” he said. “Those who forgive me will be rewarded by the almighty. I would like to make them a solemn promise that this was the first and the last wrongful act I will ever commit.” (Guardian


East African foreign ministers from countries including South Sudan have agreed to move ahead with the deployment of a regional peacekeeping force to that troubled nation, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday on the first stop of his latest Africa visit. (AP

Ebola exposed the weakness of Liberia’s health system but some clinics are now offering more effective diagnosis and streamlined services. (Guardian

The tense Democratic Republic of the Congo faces a nationwide shutdown Tuesday after the country’s main opposition alliance refused to join talks with President Joseph Kabila’s government in a stormy row over delayed presidential elections. (AFP

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will ask parliament for extra powers allowing him to take “emergency” decisions to revive the economy, a government source said on Monday. (Reuters

Residents in Kidal in northern Mali are finding it easier to work and study into the night thanks to a solar lighting project recently introduced to the area. (Reuters

Light rains in most of Ivory Coast’s main cocoa regions augur well for the crop in the world’s biggest producer, farmers said on Monday, but cloudy weather has stoked fears of disease in the south. (Reuters

Zimbabwe has stopped hiring new state workers after failing to pay its soldiers and teachers on time, according to an official notice, as President Robert Mugabe’s government struggles with a big financial squeeze. (Reuters

Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa held his arms over his head, wrists crossed, as he finished second at the Olympic marathon on Sunday in a gesture of support for members of his Oromo tribe who have been protesting at government plans to reallocate farmland. (Reuters


A British national working for a U.S. company clearing ordnance in the Iraqi city of Ramadi was killed Monday as he tried to defuse a bomb, officials said. (AFP

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his Russian counterpart and close ally Vladimir Putin wants to host an Israeli-Palestinian summit to revive peace talks, in an interview published Monday. (AFP

Donor countries have pledged close to $100 million to help Jordan enroll all Syrian refugee children in the kingdom in schools next month. (AP

An arms watchdog on Monday urged major weapons exporters, including the United States and France, to cut sales to Saudi Arabia over its actions in Yemen, as a conference on global arms trade opened in Geneva. (AFP

Air pollution caused by war may be a major factor in the numbers of birth defects and cancers being reported in Iraq and other war zones, a study has suggested. (Guardian


A court in Myanmar indicted a man on Monday for insulting the military chief and former president on social media, under a controversial telecommunications law that activists have urged the new government to repeal. (Reuters

Around 100 American troops have been deployed to a southern Afghan city at risk of falling to the Taliban, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Monday. (AP

North Korea appeared to resume activities this year aimed at producing plutonium, which can be used in the core of an atomic bomb, the U.N. nuclear watchdog has confirmed, though it added that signs of those activities stopped last month. (VOA

The Philippines has recorded about 1,800 drug-related killings since President Rodrigo Duterte took office seven weeks ago and launched a war on narcotics, far higher than previously believed, according to police figures. (Reuters

The Philippine government said Monday it hoped to reach a peace deal with communist guerrillas within a year, as the two sides kicked off talks in Norway aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest insurgencies. (Yahoo

A Pakistani court has ordered the father and ex-husband of a murdered British woman held for 14 days pending trial, apparently the latest case of so-called “honor killings” in Pakistan. (AP

At least 40 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been evacuated as floods hit vast swathes of central and eastern India in recent days, officials said Monday. (AP

A Malaysian court Monday remanded a rap artist in custody for a music video entitled “Oh my God,” which allegedly insults Islam because it was partly filmed in a mosque. (AFP

The Americas

The wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said her husband had received a death threat from prison guards. (AFP

The celebrations are done and the torch extinguished, but now that the Olympics are gone, Rio is left with questions about what will become of the city’s plan to convert the Olympic Park into a bustling recreational district with luxury apartments and offices. (AP

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto plagiarized nearly a third of his 1991 undergraduate law thesis, according to a report published on Sunday by one of Mexico’s leading investigative journalists. (Reuters

..and the rest

The number of victims of trafficking and modern slavery helped by the Salvation Army in England and Wales has increased nearly fivefold since 2012, the charity said on Monday. (Reuters

British police have charged a former priest with child sex crimes after he returned to the U.K. from Kosovo, where he had been on the run for around five years living under a false name. (Reuters


Delhi schools offer safe space for children to speak up about sexual abuse (Guardian

They’re defeating Boko Haram but are they Nigeria’s next security threat? (IRIN

Uruguay’s Victory over Philip Morris: a Win for Tobacco Control and Public Health (IPS

2016 Games end – but is it a new beginning for Rio? (BBC

Africa: Why Africa’s Opposition to ICC Will Only Get Louder (New Times

When will the United Nations address its unjust internship policy? (Guardian

Senegal: Protecting the Environment? There’s an App for That (TRF

Child bomber in Turkey not the only violent use of children (AP

Rescuing refugees: ‘You never get used to it – and that’s a good thing’ (Guardian

The Guardian view on UN peacekeeping: admirable aims but a troubled record (Editorial

The Myth of the Middle Class in India (CFI Blog

3 alternative sources of financing for social protection (Devex

How English-medium education is hobbling Tanzania’s children (Global Dashboard


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