The Hague, Sept 27, 2016 (AFP) -The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court welcomed Tuesday a nine-year jail term handed to a Malian jihadist for destroying Timbuktu's shrines, saying it sent "a warning" to others planning such attacks.
The term imposed on Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi for directing the 2012 attacks on the fabled mausoleums in northern Mali was a "fair sentence," ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told AFP.
But she stressed it "will give warning out there for those who are committing the crimes... that this is a serious crime. It is a war crime and they will be held accountable for destroying these important sites".
Mahdi was sentenced to nine years imprisonment Tuesday by judges at the tribunal, after he pleaded guilty to a single war crimes charge of intentionally directing attacks against a religious and historic site.
The judges said the destruction of nine mausoleums and the 500-year-old doors of the Sidi Yahia mosque at the UNESCO-listed site were of "significant gravity".
UNESCO on Tuesday applauded the International Criminal Court for jailing Mahdi, calling it a "major step towards peace and reconciliation in Mali".
The issue of cultural destruction has been catapulted into the spotlight as jihadists have swept into centuries-old sites in Iraq and Syria in recent years.
"The court has recognised that this is a very serious offence, very grave offence and the impact that it has had also on the community," Bensouda said.
The sentence would have "a deterrent effect on those who are considering committing these crimes".
She stressed her office was also looking into other crimes in Mali following criticism from some rights group that not enough was being done to bring other suspects to justice after harrowing the events of 2012.
"The investigations continue, we are looking into other crimes, we are also looking into these crimes such as sexual and gender-based crimes and killings," she said.
Even though her office does not have jurisdiction to investigate crimes in Iraq and Syria, as they have not signed up to the court, "where we have jurisdiction, we will definitely intervene," Bensouda said.