Now, stories have begun to emerge that nearly all the manuscripts from the Ahmed Baba institute and the city’s many private collections may be safe. First Lila Adam Zanganeh wrote about the crisis for the New Yorker, noting reassurances that the many private collections were in fact safe, though the state of those manuscripts that had been housed in the Centre was still uncertain. Then, Monday, both Harper’s and the Global Post have followed up with the incredible news that in fact almost all of the manuscripts were secreted away even before the city had fallen to rebel groups.
Islamist rebels have burnt down a library full of ancient manuscripts in the Malian town of Timbuktu as they fled, according to officials. The South African-funded library contained thousands of priceless documents dating back to the 13th century. “The rebels sit fire to the newly-constructed Ahmed Baba Institute built by the South Africans … this happened four days ago,” Timbuktu Mayor Halle Ousmane Ciffe told Reuters by telephone from Bamako. According to the official, he received the information from his chief of communications, who had traveled south from the town on Sunday. The manuscripts were being kept in two different locations, an old warehouse and a new research center – the Ahmed Baba Institute. Both buildings were burned down, according to the mayor, who was unable to say immediately if any of the manuscripts had survived in fire. Named after a Timbuktu-born contemporary of William Shakespeare, the Ahmed Baba Institute housed more than 20,000 scholarly manuscripts. Some were stored in underground vaults.