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Radical Islamists stone couple to death in northern Mali

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Zachary Huffman Contributor
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In the northern Mali town of Aguelhok, radical Islamists on Sunday seized an unmarried couple and stoned them to death as more than 200 people watched.

A local official told The New York Times that members of Ansar Dine, a terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida, dragged the couple to the center of town at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning prior to the execution.

The terror group alleged the couple had violated Sharia law by having children out of wedlock.

“It was horrible,” the local official said. “It was inhuman. They killed them like they were animals.”

In January, Islamist groups using tactics inspired by al-Qaida executed 82 Malian soldiers and townspeople  in the remote town of Aguelhok, binding their hands and slitting their throats in front of onlookers.

Historically one of West Africa’s most stable nations, Mali has spiraled out of control since March 22, when a coup d’état ousted ex-president Amadou Toumani Toure.

A rebellion led by Tuareg separatists triggered the March coup, but the ensuing disorder allowed radical Islamic terror groups to infiltrate northern Mali and gain control of the region.

Many important cities of northern Mali are now under the thumb of groups like Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). The two groups are allied with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Islamic militant group.

Instability in Mali has led to what many analysts and leaders are calling a “terrorist haven,” which could prove dangerous to regional and international security given the strength of AQIM’s finances.

“We — the international community, the Malian government —- missed an opportunity to deal with AQIM when they were weak,” Gen. Carter Ham, head of the United States military’s Africa Command, told reporters in Senegal last week. “Now the situation is much more difficult and it will take greater effort by the international community and certainly by a new Malian government.”

The general also said that the U.S. would broadly assist regional efforts to help resolve the crisis in Mali. But Ham did not comment on the possibility of using drone strikes against militants or deploying troops to the country.

Michael Sheehan, the Department of Defense’s assistant secretary for special operations, also declined to speculate on what specific actions the U.S. may take to assist Mali, but he did communicate that the Pentagon would consider multiple options.

“What we will do with Mali, I can’t speculate, but I think you can look at the whole range of things that have been successful in partnership with [other] governments, and perhaps operating in ungoverned space,” Sheehan told reporters at the Aspen Security Forum in Denver last week.

“We cannot allow al-Qaida to sit in an ungoverned space and have a sanctuary and impunity,” Sheehan said. “All options will be considered for what is a looming threat.”

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