published Friday, August 10th, 2012

Mali Islamists cut off suspected thief’s hand

BAMAKO, Mali — Islamist militants in northern Mali chopped off a man’s hand as punishment for stealing, a spokesman for an Islamist group said as hardliners tighten their control over the vast territory in northwest Africa.

Adnan Abou Walid Saharaoui, spokesman for the jihadist group Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, said Thursday that the amputation was carried out the previous day in the village of Ansongo. Authorities had accused the man of stealing a motorcycle.

Mali’s north was overrun by a mix of armed groups — including several allied with al-Qaida — following a coup in Mali’s capital in March. Since June, Islamists have exerted full control of the northern half of the country and have imposed Shariah law. They recently stoned an adulterous couple to death.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon this week warned of worsening security and humanitarian crises in Mali and asked the Security Council to consider financial and travel sanctions on rebels and Islamist fighters, including several allied with al-Qaida.

A 3,000-member military intervention force assembled by the Economic Community of West African States is awaiting a formal request for intervention from Mali’s interim president, who recently returned from exile, an ECOWAS official said Wednesday. Dioncounda Traore will submit the request once he forms a transitional government, said Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman of Nigeria, the group’s political affairs commissioner.

Traore left Mali on May 21 for medical treatment in Paris after being beaten until he lost consciousness by a mob of protesters allied with the coup leader. He returned two months later, a long absence seen as a sign that he did not trust the military to guarantee his safety.

Resistance by Mali’s military has hindered the deployment of the ECOWAS force.

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