Accused Mali criminals languish after Islamist amputations
[Daily Nation (Kenya)] Two gun-toting Islamists keep watch outside a hospital room in the desert city of Gao in northeast Mali. Inside, five young men languish on beds, recovering after they were each severed of a hand and a foot.
The patient-prisoners are among the latest accused criminals to have received hardline Islamic punishments since jihadi rebels and Tuaregs seized power in Mali's north following a coup in the capital Bamako.
A wan light filters into the room, illuminating the bandages wrapped around the men's stumps.
"I admit to having attacked a bus full of travellers," one of the men, Ardo, murmurs to AFP after a news hound gained access to the room.
"But that's not worth them cutting off a hand and a foot."
AFP has changed the names of the amputees.
| In some cases it is difficult to find pity.|
Last month, five men attacked a bus heading from Gao to the Nigerian border and robbed a large sum of money from passengers.
Five days later, Islamist security forces in Gao captured the alleged culprits, four Fulani men and a Tuareg. The captors imposed their interpretation of sharia law and ordered the amputations, which were carried out September 10.
"I was so afraid that I wanted to kill myself," says Yoro in the regional Fulani language, his words interpreted by a local resident.
"How could they just lop off my hand like that? Now my life is in hospital, it's sad for me," says Yoro who, like the other amputees, is aged about 18.
At least one of the punishments was meted out in public, with the accused's hand and foot severed with a knife.
'I felt absolutely nothing'
The men have no idea when they will be allowed to leave the hospital or what they will do once they are free.
A man on another bed says he felt "absolutely nothing" when the amputation occurred.
"They gave me tablets to take just before. I didn't feel a thing, I was drugged," says the young man, wrapped in a robe, without trousers, his leg stump exposed.
One of the group's younger members says: "I went with the others who carried out the theft but I wasn't armed. And I did not know they were going to chop off a hand and a foot."
A bottle of aspirin lies on his bedside table. Care here is rudimentary -- the mattresses have no sheets, and the room feels more like a cell than a hospital centre.
"It's over. I'll never work," one of the men says. Another says he'll have to spend his life in hiding.
Posted by: Fred