News / Africa

    Islamist Militants in Northern Mali Mix Punishment, Charity

    A man whose hand was amputated under Sharia law in Mali. (Idriss Fall/VOA)A man whose hand was amputated under Sharia law in Mali. (Idriss Fall/VOA)
    x
    A man whose hand was amputated under Sharia law in Mali. (Idriss Fall/VOA)
    A man whose hand was amputated under Sharia law in Mali. (Idriss Fall/VOA)
    Nancy Palus
    Residents of northern Mali say Islamist militant groups currently running parts of the region are trying to win hearts and minds with an odd mix of punishment and charity.

    The groups carry out harsh corporal punishment they say the religion requires, while at the same time doling out cash and other gifts.

    During a recent meeting in Mali’s northern city of Kidal, local residents and religious leaders said they reject the position of Tuareg Islamist group Ansar Dine, which wants to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law throughout Mali.

    When Tuareg separatists seized northern Mali in late March, fighting alongside them were Islamists who want to make the predominantly Muslim but secular country an Islamic republic.

    Malians expressed shock last week when Ansar Dine flogged a couple in a public square in Timbuktu apparently for having sex outside marriage.

    The man and woman each received 100 lashes before they were transported to a hospital by Ansar Dine. The couple reportedly got married two days later. Ansar Dine members gave them money and a goat, local residents said.

    A 30-year-old Timbuktu resident told VOA that the newly married man is poor and Ansar Dine showered him with gifts as a way to win him over to their thinking.

    He said on the one hand you have group members who recently beat an elderly man for possessing cigarettes, and a woman food vendor for not wearing a veil.  On the other hand, Ansar Dine confiscates food aid coming into the region so they can dole it out to different communities in a bid to gain favor. 

    "They hand out candy to children," he said.

    The Timbuktu resident said he did not want to be recorded because a man he knows was recently roughed up by armed men after talking with the press.

    Outside involvement

    Ansar Dine is one group in northern Mali said to have ties with terrorists. Another is the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO.

    This group of mostly foreigners, which dominates in some areas of Gao, is also trying to win the people’s favor, said a Gao resident who did not want his name used for fear of reprisals.

    He laments that some local youths have joined MUJAO. “But it’s purely for survival not ideology,” he said. “The youths who join them receive money.”  He said MUJAO has also appealed to communities by handing out cash for work.

    For many residents VOA spoke with, it’s not even a question of religion.

    The Gao resident says no one should be fooled by MUJAO’s claims of devotion to Islam. "They are terrorists living off of kidnapping and drug smuggling, period," he said.

    Another resident of Gao said eventually the people, more resentful every day, are going to rise up - and he fears a blood bath.

    "We’ve got mosques that were here long before these people were born," he said. "What are they going to tell us about Islam?"

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora