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Protestors in Gao thwart hand-chopping by Mali extremists
From Perth Now
RESIDENTS of Gao in Islamist-occupied northern Mali yesterday prevented extremists from chopping off the hand of a thief, the penalty for stealing according to strict sharia law.
"They [Islamists] were not able to cut off the thief's hand. Very early on Sunday hundreds of youths stormed independence square in Gao to prevent the sentence being carried out," a local teacher told AFP by telephone.
On Saturday night the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced on private radio that they would carry out the sharia sentence yesterday at the square.
"They [Islamists] were not able to take the prisoner to the square to cut off his hand. The residents of Gao occupied the square and refused to allow the thief's hand to be amputated," the leader of a local NGO said on condition of anonymity.
According to corroborating sources, the accused was a young MUJAO recruit who had stolen weapons to re-sell them. "We don't want to know what this young man did, but they are not going to cut his hand off in front of us. The Islamists have retreated and the civilians sang the national hymn as a sign of victory," another resident said.
This is the first report of the extremists attempting to carry out an amputation since they occupied the north of the country four months ago, enforcing strict sharia law. The residents of Gao have kicked back against the occupation, and MUJAO had eased up on the application of sharia after violent anti-Islamist protests in May left one dead.