ICC unseals arrest warrant against Iyad Ag Ghaly over Mali war crimes

FILE PHOTO: Iyad Ag Ghaly, the alleged leader of Ansar Dine, meets the then Burkina Faso foreign minister, Djibril Bassole, in Kidal, northern Mali in 2012

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -The International Criminal Court (ICC) published an arrest warrant on Friday against Iyad Ag Ghaly, the alleged leader of the Ansar Dine Islamist group which took over Timbuktu in northern Mali in 2012.

Ghaly, also known as Abou Fadl, is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity between January 2012 and January 2013, the court said. The arrest warrant against him was issued in 2017 under seal but made public only on Friday.

After Ansar Dine took over Timbuktu, it tried to impose sharia law. In previous ICC cases of other Ansar Dine members, prosecutors said the group had subjected women in Timbuktu to rape and sexual slavery.

The al Qaeda-linked fighters also used pick-axes, shovels and hammers to shatter earthen tombs and centuries-old shrines reflecting Timbuktu's Sufi version of Islam in what is known as the "City of 333 Saints".

One Islamist rebel was given a nine-year sentence by the ICC in 2016 after pleading guilty to participating in destruction of Timbuktu's religious monuments. A second Malian suspect is due to hear the verdict in his case before the ICC next Wednesday.

The ICC, the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, has been examining events in Mali since 2012. French and Malian troops pushed the rebels back the following year.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson and Timothy Heritage)