Islamists in northern Mali stoned a couple to death on Sunday, on the grounds that they had had children outside of marriage. An official who was one of hundreds who witnessed the killing said the couple, who lived in the countryside, was brought into the center of the town of Aguelhok by “bearded Islamists, armed with Kalashnikov rifles.” The New York Times describes a truly horrifying scene.
The young man and woman were forced into holes about four feet deep, with their heads protruding, and then stoned to death at about 5 a.m. Sunday, the official said.
“They put them into the holes, and then they started throwing big rocks, until they were dead,” the official said, speaking by satellite phone from the remote desert town near the Algerian border.
“It was horrible,” he said, noting that the woman had moaned and cried out and that her partner had yelled something indistinct during the attack. “It was inhuman. They killed them like they were animals.”
The couple reportedly attempted to say that the children, the youngest a baby of six months, were not even theirs. The execution lasted 15 minutes.
All of northern Mali is now under the control of Islamists linked to Al Qaeda after a rebellion that began in January in a country long noted for its democratic government. A military junta brought down Mali’s government in March and the struggling civilian government (which the military remains active in) has lost control of its northern regions, an area larger than France that is mostly desert. Interim president, Dioncounda Traoré only recently returned from Paris; he was there for two months after being seriously injured by a mob in an attack that the military may have played a part in.
What was first a rebellion from Mali’s central government by the Tuaregs, an ethnic tribal group, has been overtaken by their allies, the Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, which is allied with Al Qaeda. Alsar Dine and another Islamist group, the Mujao, or the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, are now seeking to impose the most extreme form of Shariah law on northern Mali. There have also been reports of public whippings and beatings for what are said to be violations of Shariah law.
Islamists who have occupied the city of Timbuktu have vowed to destroy its mausoleums and other cultural treasures. Timbuktu is a UNESCO heritage site; the city was home to a university and was a cultural and intellectual center playing a huge role in the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th century.
In early July, the Ansar Dine and other groups destroyed two 15th-century tombs of an ancient mosque using armored an four-wheel drive truck, pickaxes and hoes, in a campaign to remove what they believe is un-Islamic idolatry.
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