Rebels in Mali have burned Africa's oldest library destroying priceless antiquities
The Ahmed Baba Institute housed an estimated 30,000 manuscripts. The texts include documents on astronomy, medicine, botany, mathematics and biology, evidence that science was under way in Africa before European settlers arrived. They were not only from scholars working in Timbuktu, once a centre for learning, but also from all over Mali and as far as the borders of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, Niger, Algeria and the Ivory Coast.
It is unclear at this stage how many of the texts have been destroyed.
The rebel group Ansar al Dine wrestled control of Timbuktu from Tuareg separatists in April last year, and since have been using the Institute as their base. The rebels had earlier looted the building of its vehicles, computers and other equipment.