A view of the Sufi shrine before the destruction, left, and after, right. (images via )

A view of the Sufi shrine before the destruction, left, and after, right. (images via Shabwaah Press and Al Amal News)

Haykal Bafana reported that “Al Qaeda militants [had] destroyed” the 800-year-old tomb of Sufi saint Sufyan bin Abdullah in Al Hota town, Lahij province, Yemen, on January 27. Bin Abdullah was famed for having fought for Saladin in 1187 CE, when he ousted the Crusaders from Jerusalem.

Images of the site before, top, and after, below. after the destruction. (images via youtube.com/)

Images of the site before, top, and after, below. after the destruction. The text ontop reads, top, “enter text here,” while the image on the bottom reads “Aden Bay.” (images via youtube.com/وائل القباطي)

Unidentified Yemeni officials “suspect” that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) conducted the attack, because it has committed “similar” attacks before. However, Yemen Press has specified that a thirty-plus-strong motorcycle gang from pro-al-Qaeda Ansar al-Sharia attacked the shrine that night, bombing and tearing down the building and digging up the grave. As Bafana expanded on Facebook, bin Abdullah’s “grave was dug up and his corpse strewn on the ground.”

Aside from anger at the act of violence, the difficulty of protecting such sites and the Islamists’ capacity to strike have caused frustration and pessimism. The attack took place “[b]arely 20 km NW from … Al Anad airbase, where hundreds of US armed forces personnel are based.”

Trying to verify the site of destruction, comparison photographs or satellite images could not be found on Flickr, Google Earth, or Panoramio. However, al Amal News’ photograph and journalist Wael Qabaty’s video of the scene appeared to confirm the shrine’s destruction, and Lahij archaeological office “visited the site and found the shrine no longer exists.”

The Director-General of Preaching and Guidance at the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance, Sheikh Jabri Ibrahim, observed that it was “impermissible in Islam … to attack and dig up graves.” Castigating both Islamists and Islamophobes, Bafana offered: “For those who are confused, let me explain. The one whose tomb was destroyed? He is the Muslim. The AQAP militants who destroyed the tomb? I do not know their religion.”

Sufi shrines and structures have been targeted by Islamists across the region, including Libya, Mali, and Tunisia.

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Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy is an archaeologist who researches the illicit trade in antiquities, the destruction of cultural property, and cultural heritage labour at times of crisis and conflict. He teaches in Rome and...

6 replies on “Landmark Sufi Shrine Destroyed by Islamists in Yemen”

  1. In studying history, we often came across incidents where invading armies purposely destroyed art, historical places and shrines. One would have thought these incidents were things of the past and there would be concerted efforts by all forces not to destroy irreplaceable relics of history.

    It has become evident that this is not the case and the distorted and brutal mindset of these contemporary barbarians still exists and prowls the earth attempting to push us further into the Dark Ages. Every country which participates in war is guilty of these crimes against humanity.

    To quote a line from a song, “When will they ever learn?” — the elusive answer seems to be never.

  2. doesn’t look like enough rubble. thirty guys on bikes, in the dark wouldn’t have been able to carry away all those bricks, seems like.

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