A journalist in Mali has been beaten by Islamists in the North of the country after he reported their failed efforts to amputate a thief’s hand.
The interim regime in Mali continues to win back the people’s confidence and has vowed to work to regain lost territory in the country, underscoring its commitment to secularism.
However, the government continues to battle for support, and protesters demanding the resignation of interim President Dioncounda Traore once again took to the streets of the capital Bamako, resulting in tear gas being fired by police to disperse them.
Accused of criticising
In the extremist-occupied north, radio presenter Abdoul Malick Maiga was in the Gao hospital on Monday after a thrashing by the town's Islamist rulers.
"He regained consciousness but is still in intense pain," a doctor at the hospital told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"He has scratches on his eye. He explained that the Islamists came to arrest him as he was commenting on the population's refusal to accept the amputation of a thief's hand," he added.
Another doctor said the presenter had been beaten "with a stick by the Islamists who accused him of criticising them."
Hundreds of people have been protesting in Gao and set fire to a the leader of the Movement for Onesness and Jihad in West Africa, (MUJAO) leader’s car, demanding that Maiga be released from detention.
The Islamists fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd.
“They are not going to cut his hand off in front of us.”
On Saturday MUJAO announced on private radio they would amputate the thief's hand at a town square, but hundreds of protesters on Sunday stormed the square to prevent them from carrying out the sentence.
According to local 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," a resident said on Sunday.
This is the first report of the extremists trying to stage an amputation since they occupied the north of the country four months ago.
Following anti-Islamist protests earlier this year which left one dead, and continued resistance from the local population, MUJAO have eased up on their application of Islamic law. However, strict Islamic law is applied in other areas of the country, and last month an unmarried couple were stoned to death by the Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) armed Islamist group in the town of Aguelbok. Amnesty International condemned the attacks, saying that the stoning indicates the climate of fear in the country.
Chaos since coup
Islamist groups rose to prominence and seized a number of cities in the North following a coup d’etat in Bamako on March 22. Security experts have said that the groups are acting under the control of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AGIM).
The transitional government strongly condemned that attack on the protester and the attempted amputation, expressing its “commitment to freedom of the press as well as the irreversible secularity of the Malian state."
It said authorities were working "flat out for the total recuperation of the occupied zones and the restoration of the authority of the state."
Mediators from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ordered the interim government to form a more inclusive unity government to help prevent such crises in the future.
The initial deadline of July 31 had to be postponed as President Diocounda Traore spent two months in Paris recovering from a brutal attack by opponents to his opposition.
Upon returning, Traore announced the formation of new transition bodies to tackle the various problems and announced he would take over negotiations to form a unity government.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has 3,300 standby troops ready to be sent to Mali, but is awaiting a formal request from Bamako and a mandate from the UN Security Council.
France has said an African military intervention was "desirable and inevitable" but Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the former colonial power would not take the lead
Journalists in Mali are often subjected to violence. Last month, the director of a private newspaper, Saouti Haidara was taken from his office and "beaten to a pulp" by gunmen.