Couple stoned to death in north Mali by 'Islamists': local official
An unmarried couple were stoned to death in public in northeast Mali by Islamists, local officials told AFP on Wednesday, the first such incident since jihadist groups overran the region five years ago.
Jihadists seized key northern cities in Mali in March 2012, and though they were driven out by a French-led military intervention, Islamist groups continue to make their presence felt with frequent attacks on domestic and foreign forces.
"The Islamists dug two holes where they put the man and the woman who lived maritally without being married," said a local official. "They were stoned to death."
The Tuesday stoning happened in Taghlit, close to Aguelhok in the Kidal region, and the same source told AFP that members of the public were invited to take part.
"Four people threw stones at them until they died," they said.
Another local official said the Islamists had accused the unmarried couple of violating "Islamic law", which requires punishment by stoning.
During their brief control of key towns in the vast north, jihadist groups imposed a version of Sharia law which forced women to wear veils and set whipping and stoning as punishment for transgressions.
In July 2012, the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine group stoned a couple in public in Aguelhok who they accused of having children outside marriage.
The Malian Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AMDH) described Tuesday's stoning as "cowardly murder".
"This is barbaric. The people who did this should be arrested and put on trial," said Oumar Diakite, an AMDH official.
The stoning comes on the eve of an expected visit to Mali by French President Emmanuel Macron, who is due to meet French troops stationed there on Thursday or Friday.
A UN mission known by its acronym MINUSMA has also been stationed in the west African country since 2013 and is considered the world body's most dangerous active peacekeeping deployment.