The Islamists occupying northern Mali on Wednesday gave a couple 100 lashes of a whip for having a child out of wedlock as they continue enforcing sharia law, witnesses said.
“At Sankore Square in Timbuktu, a man and a women got 100 lashes for having had a child outside of marriage,” said local official Mohamed Ould Baby.
“People were watching it was like a show. I was there, I saw the youths arriving at the square, I saw them being whipped, it is the first time I have seen something like that.”
The official said Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) carried out the punishment.
Ansar Dine, which seized control of the north of Mali flanked by other rebel groups, has been implementing strict Islamic law, shariah, since late March, but this is the first time a couple has been punished in this fashion.
They have asked women to wear veils, whipped smokers and destroyed cartons of cigarettes while banning the sale of alcohol.
According to shariah, or Islamic law, 100 lashes of a whip is the punishment for “fornicators” or those who have sex outside of marriage.
A hospital source in Timbuktu said the couple had sought treatment at the hospital after the beating.
An Islamic police official in the town said six other women who had had children outside of marriage would soon be “punished by Islamic law”.
The age of the children was not mentioned, however with Ansar Dine only in charge for about three months, they would have been conceived before the group seized the city.
While majority Muslim, Mali has long been a secular and moderate culture, with the ancient city of Timbuktu a meeting point for various tribes and religions.
The vast north of Mali was seized by Islamist and Tuareg rebels in a lightning advance which took advantage of a coup in Bamako in the south on March 22.
The two groups have different objectives: The secular Tuareg want independence for their traditional homeland, and the Islamists want shariah.
The northern desert has long been plagued by drug trafficking and other criminal activities and in recent years has become the base of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has kidnapped many westerners in neighbouring Sahel countries.
Ansar Dine has openly allied with AQIM, sparking fears a breakaway state could become a hive of terrorist activity. - Sapa-AFP