One year ago radical Islamists entered Timbuktu and began terrorizing local residents who were smoking, drinking, listening to Western music, or doing anything else deemed to be a sin.
Cultural artifacts were in danger too.
But a secret operation had been set in motion within weeks of the jihadist takeover. It included donkeys, safe houses and smugglers, all deployed to protect thousands of ancient manuscripts by sneaking them out of town.
This is the story of how nearly all the documents were saved, based on interviews with an unlikely cast of characters who detailed their roles for the first time. They included Traore, a 30-year-old part-time janitor, and his grandfather, a guard.
(READ the article in the Washington Post)