The majority of Timbuktu’s manuscripts is safe, according to experts involved in the preservation of the ancient texts.

After French-led forces on Sunday recaptured Timbuktu, the northern city of Mali on the edge of the Sahara desert, the city’s mayor Hallé Ousmane Cissé made a shocking announcement. He reported that fleeing Islamic militants had set on fire several buildings, reducing thousands of priceless manuscripts kept inside the structures to a pile of ashes.

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