In a historic first, the International Criminal Court has classified destroying cultural artifacts as a war crime.

It follows the trial of jihadist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, who pleaded guilty Monday to destroying religious monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali.

“I’m willing to accept the judgment of the chamber, but I will do so with pain and a broken heart,” Mahdi told the court Monday.

Mahdi, also known as “Abou Tourab,” was charged in March in the attacks between June and July 2012. He is believed to be a member of the al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Dine in Mali, which oversaw the ransacking of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

“Such attacks affect humanity as a whole. We must stand up to the destruction and defacing of our common heritage,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in September.

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Image courtesy of CNN, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi appears Monday at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.