BAMAKO — Islamists who have seized control of northern Mali on Tuesday publicly executed a man accused of murder, witnesses told AFP by phone from the city of Timbuktu.
The man was executed by firing squad at around 5:30 pm (1730 GMT) in a space between two municipal buildings in the ancient city, witnesses said.
"I saw him fall after the shots were fired," one witness said.
A city council member who also saw the execution confirmed the report and said a crowd of some 100 people had attended.
A third witness who identified himself as Bamoussa said the executed man was accused of killing a fisherman and was a member of the ethnic Tuareg rebel group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
The MNLA was formerly an ally of the Islamist groups that have seized control of the north. But the Islamists have since turned on the secular separatist group and chased its members out of cities under their control.
Mali, once considered one of Africa's most stable democracies, has been in chaos since a March 22 coup staged by army officers who complained the government was not doing enough to fight the MNLA.
The MNLA and a series of Islamist groups, including Al-Qaeda's north African branch, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), capitalised on the power vacuum to seize the country's vast desert north, an area larger than France or Texas.
The Islamists have since imposed strict Islamic law, or sharia, on areas under their control, arresting unveiled women, stoning an unmarried couple to death, publicly flogging smokers and amputating suspected thieves' limbs, according to residents and rights groups.
Witnesses also said Tuesday that members of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), an AQIM offshoot, had given 40 lashes each to four residents of Douentza, a town at the southern edge of the territory under the Islamists' control.
The public flogging took place in front of hundreds of residents, one witness said.
A local elected official who saw the flogging said the four men had been arrested last week at an underground bar whose Christian proprietor has fled the town.
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