Thankfully, it seems that locals were thinking ahead and sequestered many of the documents in anticipation of violence:
"As French-led forces consolidated their hold on northern Mali, international scholars feared the worst: that retreating Islamic militants had torched the Ahmed Baba Institute, home to 30,000 priceless items of scholarship dating back to the 13th century.
"But many volumes may have escaped destruction by being hidden from fundamentalist forces that seized the north last year. The militants launched a campaign to eradicate historic vestiges of a medieval Muslim civilization that they deemed un-Islamic.
"South African researchers involved in a project to preserve the Timbuktu manuscripts have had word that most of the treasures survived in private libraries and secure locations.
"Mohamed Mathee of the University of Johannesburg told eNews Channel Africa, 'It seems most of the manuscripts are OK. These manuscripts are with families and are safe.'
"National Geographic News quoted Sidi Ahmed, a reporter who fled Timbuktu during its occupation, as saying: 'The people here have long memories. They are used to hiding their manuscripts. They go into the desert and bury them until it is safe.'"Mali's Culture War: The Fate of the Timbuktu Manuscripts