Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous. Evan Schneider/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Evan Schneider/AFP/Getty Images
Timbuktu's 'Badass Librarians': Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida's Nose
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/475420855/475424821" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

French and Malian soldiers patrol next to the Djingareyber Mosque in Timbuktu in 2015. Several of the city's historic and cultural sites were demolished in 2012, during an occupation by Islamist militants. Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

In this image from a video, an Islamist militant celebrates after the destruction of a Sufi shrine earlier this month in Timbuktu. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption AFP/Getty Images
Renee Montagne speaks with Corinne Dufka
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/156715515/156714923" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">