Reuters International

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The trial of an Islamist militant over the destruction of holy sites in Timbuktu during Mali's 2012 conflict began in the Hague on Monday, the first at the International Criminal Court to cite destroying cultural artifacts as a war crime.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi said at a hearing in March he intends to plead guilty and he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Mahdi's rebel group is accused of destroying nine mausoleums and the door of a mosque. Most dated from Mali's 14th-century golden age as a trading hub and centre of Sufi Islam.

The trial is expected to last a week.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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 Reuters International