File picture: A young vendor wears a veil as she walks along an alley in Timbuktu.

Bamako - Mali jihadists have forced women to cover their heads and banned cigarettes, alcohol and music in the newly-captured town of Douentza, bordering the government-controlled south, they said Tuesday.

“All those who can't stand these rules of good conduct are free to leave the town,” said a leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) on condition of anonymity, outlining the strict Islamic laws.

“They asked all girls and women to cover their heads, smokers not to smoke, alcohol drinkers to stop, and youths to no longer listen to music in the street,” said a young man identifying himself only as Boura.

Douentza became the Islamic extremists' farthest position south after they seized it Saturday in a bloodless confrontation with a local militia who had held it since the takeover of the country's north by armed groups five months ago.

The takeover is believed to be due to a disagreement with the self-defence group whom they dubbed “traitors”, according to a teacher in the town Moussa Dicko.

“The bearded men have installed themselves at the teaching academy, the highschool, the hotel and two exits from the town. They are not hurting anyone and have promised that the application of sharia will begin in three months,” said Dicko.

Douentza is a strategic town in the Mopti region of central Mali, situated 145 km (90 miles) from the town of Mopti, the frontier to the southern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation which is controlled by government.

A March 22 coup in Bamako opened the way for Al Qaeda-linked Islamists to seize the north, an area larger than France or Texas.

They have enforced strict Islamic law, whipping or stoning to death transgressors and destroying ancient World Heritage sites they consider “idolatrous”. - Sapa-AFP