BAMAKO - Islamist rebels have cut off the hand of a suspected cattle thief in Mali, an insurgent leader said on Thursday - the first case of amputation under shariah (Islamic law) imposed by insurgents controlling the country's desert north.
Witnesses told Reuters a large crowd gathered in a square in the village of Ansongo, about 100 km (60 miles) from the regional capital Gao, pleading in vain with the MUJWA rebel group to spare the man.
"Yes, our men cut off the hand of a thief after a judgment based on supporting evidence. They did it according to sharia," Aliou Toure, a top MUJWA figure in Gao, told Reuters by telephone. The amputation took place on Wednesday.
Regional mediators, including Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole and the president of the High Islamic Council in Mali, Mahmoud Dicko, are seeking to negotiate with the northern rebel groups for a solution to the crisis.