'For five months, smugglers mounted a huge and secret operation whose full details are only now coming to light. The objective: to carry 350,000 manuscripts to safety in [Mali's] government-held south. The treasures moved by road and by river, by day and by night, past checkpoints manned by armed Islamic police. The risks were great. Rescuers faced the possibility of arrest, imprisonment or worse at the hands of the thugs who had taken over the north. Militants from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were capable of acts of enormous cruelty.'
Last year, while Jihadists took over Timbuktu, residents came up with a courageous plan to save their country’s priceless medieval manuscripts. The fascinating story is in Smithsonian Magazine
, with photos by Katie Orlinsky