GENEVA, Switzerland, July 10 (UPI) -- The destruction of cultural heritage sites in northern Mali by Islamic militants suggests the region is in for a "very dark future," a U.N. official said.
Ansar Dine, a militant group in northern Mali with ties to al-Qaida, destroyed tombs in Timbuktu that were listed as endangered World Heritage sites, al-Jazeera reported Tuesday.
World Heritage Sites in Mali were attacked by anti-government forces in May. The 21-member World Heritage Committee, during an early June meeting, called on Mali's neighbors to work to prevent trafficking of objects that could be looted from the historic sites.
Farida Shaheed, a U.N. special envoy on cultural rights, said the destruction of protected sites in rebel-held areas is a tragic loss in terms of the historic identity of the local population.
"These events seem to announce a very dark future for the local populations in northern Mali," she said in a statement.
Members of the Economic Community of West African States, in a statement, called on political and civil leaders in Mali, divided by a military coup, to make proposals for a unity government before the end of the month.
The African bloc added that it called on the International Criminal Court to conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Mali.