Thief's hand chopped off by Malian jihadists

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Published Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jihadists occupying northern Mali on Thursday said they had cut off the hand of a thief in accordance with strict Islamic law which they have imposed on the population.

The first reported amputation since the extremists seized the north of the country four months ago came as diplomats warned of a ticking time-bomb which could put the world at risk if it continues to deteriorate.

As west African mediators attempt to engage in talks with the Islamist groups and the option of military intervention lies untried, the extremists carried out a further grisly religious punishment.

They have already stoned an unwed couple to death and beaten other people.

"Yes, I confirm it. We applied sharia in Ansongo yesterday (Wednesday). The hand of a thief was cut off. Sharia demands it," a leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Mohamed Ould Abdine, told AFP.

A local government official in the town south of Gao, one of the chief centers of the vast desert region in northern Mali, said he witnessed the public amputation.

"I am in Gao now, but yesterday I was in Ansongo. There was a lot of blood when the hand was cut. It was the hand of a thief who stole a motorbike," he told AFP.

On Sunday scores of protesters swarmed the main square in Gao to prevent Islamists from cutting off the hand of a another thief, but Abdine said the sentence had only been put off.

"We will do the same thing in Gao soon. Last time we postponed because of the intervention of important people and not the population. The population can't do anything," he said.

In the small town of Aguelhok, another armed Islamist group, Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), publicly stoned an unmarried couple to death in late July. They have forced women to cover up and whipped smokers and drinkers.

In the ancient city of Timbuktu, Ansar Dine have destroyed World Heritage shrines dating back to the 15th century, denouncing them as idolatrous.

The Islamist groups seized key northern cities in the chaos following a coup d'etat in Bamako on March 22.

The takeover was spearheaded by Tuareg rebels seeking an independent state for their nomadic desert tribe, but the extremists have pushed them aside and seek an Islamic state in the zone – an area larger than France or Texas.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called on the Security Council to impose sanctions against the extremists, slamming the "callous" destruction of nine of Timbuktu's 16 religious shrines.

Ban said the 15-nation council should "give serious consideration to the imposition of targeted travel and financial sanctions against individuals or groups in Mali engaged in terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities."

(AFP)

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