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Mali: North Mali Islamists say carrying out new amputations

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Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Mali

12/22/2012 15:58 GMT

by Serge DANIEL

BAMAKO, Dec 22, 2012 (AFP) - Islamists in northern Mali said Saturday they have carried out fresh amputations and warned of more to come, just days after the UN approved plans for an African-led military intervention force to take back the region.

The amputations were seen as a sign the armed Islamist groups which seized the north of the west African state earlier this year are unfazed by the green-light for the operation, which planners say cannot be launched before September next year.

"We cut off the hands of two people on Friday. Eight others will soon share the same fate," said Moctar Barry, a leader of the Islamist group controlling the northern city of Gao.

"It's God's law and no one can stop us from applying it," said Barry, from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).

His claims were confirmed by witnesses, with one resident saying the amputees had committed theft.

"I saw one of them, they gave him an injection before the amputation. He cried out. Both amputees are now at the hospital," another resident told AFP.

Gao lawmaker Abdou Sidibe blamed the amputations on "the international community's laxness", saying its indecision over whether to intervene to reconquer Mali's north were making the Islamists feel invincible.

"The international community needs to know that it is its hesitation over intervening, or no, in northern Mali that is encouraging the Islamists to show they are at home and are not afraid of anything," Sidibe said.

The amputations took place a day after the Security Council approved plans for the African-led 3,300 troop intervention but vowed to work toward a peaceful solution for the Mali crisis.

Al-Qaeda linked groups and other Islamists have been controlling regions in northern Mali for months, in a conflict that has so far displaced more than 400,000 people, according to the UN.

The militant groups as well as Tuareg rebels and other separatists took advantage of a coup in Mali in March to seize control of a vast chunk of territory where the Islamists have since imposed a brutal form of Islamic law.

In July, members of the Islamist group Ansar Dine stoned an unmarried couple to death in the centre of the northern town of Aguelhok, accusing the pair of having had children out of wedlock.

Since August, other Islamists from around the northern region have applied sharia law on several occasions, carrying out amputations and flogging unmarried couples, alcohol drinkers, smokers and others they consider "deviants".

Last month, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb militants arrested dozens of women for not wearing the Islamic veil in the ancient city of Timbuktu, where Islamists have also destroyed cultural treasures they consider blasphemous.

The latest amputations were carried out the same day as two armed rebel groups announced their commitment to cease hostilities while denouncing the UN approval of the intervention force.

Representatives of Ansar Dine and the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said in Algiers that they were willing to negotiate with the Malian government.

They said they had agreed "to refrain from all action likely to generate confrontations and all forms of hostility in the zones under their control and to do everything necessary to get this commitment respected."

But a Malian presidential advisor told AFP on Saturday: "There is nothing new in these statements", adding that there had already been such calls for political dialogue and a halt to hostilities.

Sidibe said the latest statement by Ansar Dine and MNLA was "smoke and mirrors conjured up by Algeria to avoid a military intervention in the north".

Algeria, a military power player in the Sahel, has called for a political solution to the Mali crisis, a position also backed by the United Nations.

On Friday, the 15-member Security Council insisted that military force could only be used after political efforts have been exhausted.

sd-stb/amj/txw


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