<p><strong>People walk by the Djinguereber Mosque in <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/timbuktu/">Timbuktu</a>, <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/mali-guide/">Mali</a>, which, along with four other sites, was recently added to the <a href="http://whc.unesco.org/en/danger/">UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger</a>.</strong></p><p>Founded toward the end of the 5th century A.D. as a humble market village, Timbuktu became an important intellectual and spiritual center under the country's Askia dynasty toward the end of the 15th century.</p><p>"Danger listing attempts to draw attention to problems with particular sites to improve their management," said UNESCO spokesperson Roni Amelan.</p><p>"Often, it can involve asking for international assistance or the sharing of expertise."</p><p>The World Heritage Committee's decision to add Timbuktu to the danger list reflects growing international concerns about the looting and destruction of its historical sites after the city was taken over earlier this year by the armed groups MLNA and Ansar Dine.</p><p>According to Voice of America, Ansar Dine said the shrines at Timbuktu are idolatrous and un-Islamic.</p><p>In June, UNESCO director-general <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/director-general/biography/">Irina Bokova</a> expressed dismay over reports that three sacred tombs at Timbuktu had been destroyed.</p><p>"There is no justification for such wanton destruction," Bokova said in a statement, "and I call on all parties engaged in the conflict to stop these terrible and irreversible acts."</p><p>(Check out <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/sites/?source=newstravel_travel"><em>National Geographic Traveler</em>'s World Heritage Site guides</a>.)</p><p><em>—Ker Than</em></p>

Timbuktu, Mali

People walk by the Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, which, along with four other sites, was recently added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger.

Founded toward the end of the 5th century A.D. as a humble market village, Timbuktu became an important intellectual and spiritual center under the country's Askia dynasty toward the end of the 15th century.

"Danger listing attempts to draw attention to problems with particular sites to improve their management," said UNESCO spokesperson Roni Amelan.

"Often, it can involve asking for international assistance or the sharing of expertise."

The World Heritage Committee's decision to add Timbuktu to the danger list reflects growing international concerns about the looting and destruction of its historical sites after the city was taken over earlier this year by the armed groups MLNA and Ansar Dine.

According to Voice of America, Ansar Dine said the shrines at Timbuktu are idolatrous and un-Islamic.

In June, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova expressed dismay over reports that three sacred tombs at Timbuktu had been destroyed.

"There is no justification for such wanton destruction," Bokova said in a statement, "and I call on all parties engaged in the conflict to stop these terrible and irreversible acts."

(Check out National Geographic Traveler's World Heritage Site guides.)

—Ker Than

Photograph by Bruno Cossa, Grand Tour/Corbis

Pictures: 5 World Heritage Sites in Danger, Plus 2 Successes

Five new sites—including two in politically unstable Mali—were added to UNESCO's list of sites most at risk, while two were removed.

Read This Next

Planet circling a burned-out star offers a glimpse at the solar system's fate
This 50-year project is tracking the Cascades' melting glaciers
The Peruvian Amazon's largest wildlife market is back in business

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet