Unmarried couple stoned to death by 'Islamists' in Mali

An unmarried couple were stoned to death by 'Islamists' in Mali earlier this week, local officials have revealed.

ReutersA group of Islamist militants on their way to their camp in Mali.

In the first incident of its kind since jihadist groups were driven out of the region after a French-led military intervention in 2013, the public were reportedly invited to take part in the stonings of the man and woman.

'The Islamists dug two holes where they put the man and the woman who lived maritally without being married,' a local official told AFP. 'They were stoned to death.'

The attack happened on Tuesday in Taghlit, close to Aguelhok in the Kidal region in north-east Mali.

'Four people threw stones at them until they died,' the official added.

Another local official said that the Islamic extremists had accused the unmarried couple of violating 'Islamic law', which requires punishment by stoning.

During their brief control of key towns in the vast north from 2012, jihadist groups imposed a version of Sharia law which forced women to wear veils and declared whipping, stoning and mutilation as punishment for transgressions.

In July 2012, the Ansar Dine group, which is linked to al-Qaeda, stoned a couple in public in Aguelhok who they accused of having children outside marriage.

The Malian Association for the Defence of Human Rights described the stoning as 'cowardly murder'.

An official, Oumar Diakite said: 'This is barbaric. The people who did this should be arrested and put on trial.'

News of the stoning comes on the eve of an expected visit to Mali by the new French president Emmanuel Macron, who is due to meet French troops stationed there.