Islamist rebels in northern Mali took hoes and chisels to the tombs of ancient Muslim saints in Timbuktu for a second day Sunday, ignoring international pleas to halt their campaign of destruction. After smashing three ancient tombs on Saturday, the Islamist militants who consider the World Heritage shrines idolatrous, set about wrecking four mausoleums at the cemetery of Djingareyber, a local journalist told AFP. Mali’s government and the international community have expressed horror and outrage at the destruction of cultural treasures in the fabled city, an ancient desert crossroads and centre of learning known as the “City of 333 Saints”. On Saturday the Islamists destroyed the tombs of Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Moctar and Alpha Moya, and on Sunday attacked Cheikh el-Kebir’s mausoleum as residents stood by helplessly. Crying “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), the men circled the cemetery clasping tools such as chisels and hoes, but did not have construction vehicles that were used in Saturday’s rampage. “There are many of us watching them destroy the mausoleum. It hurts but we can’t do anything. These madmen are armed, we can’t do anything but they will be cursed that is for sure,” the journalist said on condition of anonymity. The cemetery is situated in the south of Timbuktu in the suburb of the eponymous Djingareyber mosque built from mud in 1327. Another resident of Timbuktu, a former tour operator, said the Islamists had also threatened to destroy the ancient mosques. “This morning (Sunday) the Islamists told us that if there are saints inside the mosques, they will also destroy these mosques.” Several saints are buried inside the city’s three historic mosques. Timbuktu is also home to 16 cemeteries and mausoleums, according to the UNESCO website. The Malian government has denounced the “destructive fury, comparable to war crimes” as pleas poured in for a halt to the Islamist rampage. UNESCO session chairwoman Yeleonor Mitrofanova told a meeting in Saint Petersburg that the destruction was tragic. “I appeal to all those engaged in the conflict in Timbuktu to exercise their responsibility — for the sake of future generations, spare the legacy of their past,” she said.