pastarchivesThe preservationists of Timbuktu’s centuries-old artifacts have been holding their breath for weeks.

In interviews with TIME on Monday, preservationists said that in a large-scale rescue operation early last year, shortly before the militants seized control of Timbuktu, thousands of manuscripts were hauled out of the Ahmed Baba Institute to a safe house elsewhere.

Realizing that the documents might be prime targets for pillaging or vindictive attacks from Islamic extremists, staff left behind just a small portion of them, perhaps out of haste, but also to conceal the fact that the center had been deliberately emptied.

A second interview provided confirmation of the story.

(READ more details from TIME)

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