Islamist extremists reportedly torch historic manuscripts in Timbuktu

Ancient books completely destroyed

SEVARE, Mali -   (AP) -- Timbuktu's mayor says that Islamist extremists have torched a library containing historic manuscripts as French and Malian forces closed in on Mali's fabled city.

   Ousmane Halle told The Associated Press by telephone from Bamako, Mali's capital, on Monday that the rebels destroyed many ancient books on culture, science and geography.

   Halle said he was alarmed that such documents would be destroyed. He did not have further details.

   The French military on Monday said that ground forces backed by French paratroopers and helicopters took control of Timbuktu's airport and roads leading to the desert town in an overnight operation.

   The move marked the latest inroad by the two-week-old French mission to oust radical Islamists from the northern half of Mali, which they seized more than nine months ago.

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