RABAT — Stone carvings in Morocco's High Atlas mountains dating back more than 8,000 years and depicting the sun as a pagan divinity have been destroyed by Salafists, a local rights group said on Wednesday.
"These stone carvings of the sun are more than 8,000 years old. They were destroyed several days ago," Aboubakr Anghir, a member of the Amazigh (Berber) League for Human Rights, told AFP.
"One of the carvings, called 'the plaque of the sun,' predates the arrival of the Phoenicians in Morocco," Anghir said.
"It lies in a well-known archaeological site in the Yakour plain south of Marrakesh, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Mount Toubkal."
"There are several Salafist groups active in the region and it's not the first time these pre-Islamic sites have been attacked. We have sent a message to the ministry of culture, but have not yet received a reply," he added.
Salafists, Muslims who adhere to a hardline Sunni interpretation of Islam similar to that practised in Saudi Arabia, which strictly prohibits "idolatry," have enjoyed a surge in strength in Arab Spring countries, benefiting from wider freedom.
Late on Monday, one of Tunisia's main Sufi mausoleums was burned down in an overnight arson attack, seemingly the latest in a spate of attacks on unorthodox Sufi shrines by the country's increasingly assertive Salafists.
In northern Mali, which is close to Morocco, radical Islamists have destroyed ancient World Heritage shrines they consider idolatrous since seizing control of the region earlier this year.
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