Mali Islamists cut off suspected thief's hand

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BAMAKO, Mali — Officials in Mali condemned Islamist militants today 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.

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.

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.

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