By BABA AHMED, Associated Press
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Officials in Mali condemned Islamist militants on Friday for chopping off a man's hand for allegedly stealing sheep, the punishment underscoring hardliners' tightening control over northern Mali.
The amputation of the 35-year-old man's hand was carried out Wednesday in the northern village of Ansongo. His co-defendant's punishment was postponed because he was found to be ill.
"After the Islamists cut off the young man's hand, they put his arm in boiling oil," said a witness at the scene who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Authorities expressed outrage over the latest punishments the Islamists have said are in accordance with strict Shariah law. Late last month, they stoned an adulterous couple to death.
"It's a horror what is happening in our cities," said El Hadj Baba Haidara, a member of the Malian parliament.
The Malian government issued a statement condemning the amputation, calling it a "a new horrible act to add their long list." The statement said the government is open to accelerating plans with neighboring nations to recapture the north from rebel hands.
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. He initially said the man had his hand amputated for 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, Bamako, in March. Since June, Islamists have exerted full control of the northern half of the country and have imposed Shariah law.
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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