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UNESCO team says destruction to Mali's fabled Timbuktu is more alarming that first estimates

A team of experts led by UNESCO says it has found far more serious damage to Mali's cultural heritage in the fabled city of Timbuktu than initially estimated, with 16 mausoleums totally destroyed and over 4,000 historic manuscripts lost.

Lazare Eloundou Assomo of UNESCO's World Heritage Center, who led the mission, said a visit to the damaged and destroyed sites on Thursday revealed that the destruction by Islamist rebels who occupied Timbuktu and the rest of the north until early this year "is even more alarming than we thought."

He told a press conference in Bamako, broadcast at U.N. headquarters in New York, that the El Farouk independence monument at the entrance to Timbuktu was razed.

But Eloundou Assomo said UNESCO estimates that 300,000 manuscripts were smuggled out for safekeeping.