An unmarried couple was on Tuesday stoned to death in Mali for allegedly violating the “Islamic law” which prohibits sex before marriage.
The couple was paraded in the streets of Taghlit, Kidal region, where residents were invited by local jihadists to participate in the public execution, according to The Independent.
“The Islamists dug two holes where they put the man and the woman who lived maritally without being married. They were stoned to death,” a Malian government official was quoted by The Independent.
The execution is the first to happen in Mali since France begun its mission to drive jihadists and Islamists out of the northern region in 2013. In 2012, members of al-Qaeda affiliate group Ansar Dine stoned a couple to death in Aguelhok for having children out of wedlock.
Tuesday’s killing came three days before the newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Mali on his first foreign tour. Macron, who arrived in Mali today, Friday, is reported to have met French troops fighting insurgents in the West African nation.
The French president reiterated his government’s commitment to continue the fight against militant Islamists in Mali and the larger Sahel region. He was speaking alongside the Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar at the Gao military base in the northern part of the country.
Sharia Law and Autonomy
Since 2012, Tuareg separatists and Islamist groups have been staging numerous attacks on civilians and government utilities in northern Mali in their quest for autonomy and the establishment of Sharia Law.
On March 2012, President Amadou Toumani Touré was ousted in a coup that was carried out by a group calling itself The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA).
Shortly after the coup, mutinous soldiers belonging to the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR) took control and suspended the constitution of Mali.
This created instability, which enabled MNLA rebels to overrun the country’s major cities, including Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao. Once they captured Douentza, a town in central Mali, NMLA fighters declared Azawad’s independence from Mali.
After the Malian army was driven out of Azawad, several Islamist groups arose and begun to impose Sharia Law, which angered NMLA rebels, forcing them to responded with force. But eventually the NMLA lost control of most of cities in northern Mali to the Islamists.
In February 2013, the Malian military, with the help of French troops and African Union forces, managed to retake most of the rebel-held cities in the region.
Nevertheless, the Islamist groups and Tuareg separatists still continue to wage war against government forces despite several peace agreements that have been signed thus far.