I didn’t know Mohammed personally, but I know that he was a Tuareg cattle farmer from a major tribe, and that he joined the Ansar Dine movement one month ago, according to several members of the group. Before that he was a part of the National Movement for the Independence of Azawad [also known as the MNLA, an armed Tuareg rebel movement that fought for northern Mali’s independence. After seizing the northern half of the country with the help of Ansar Dine and MUJAO last spring, the MNLA was driven out of the region by its former allies in June]. In the end, though, he sided with the Islamists. [A correspondent for the news agency AFP also reported that Mohammed was allegedly a former MNLA member].
Two days before he was executed, Mohammed got into a fight with a fisherman around 50 kilometres outside of Timbuktu. The latter accused Mohammed of having trampled his nets. From what I heard about the incident, the fisherman then attacked Mohammed, who shot at him with his Kalashnikov, killing him on the spot.
The murdered fisherman's mother and brother look on just before the execution. Photo courtesy of Sahara Media journalist Agh Mohamed Othman.
Mohammed was a very religious man. Two days later, he turned himself into the Islamic police and asked them to punish him according to Sharia law. The victim’s family came to Mohammed’s execution, and before he was put to death, they were asked if they would forgive him for his crime. It was explained that in exchange, Mohammed’s family would be forced to compensate them for the death of their son. The victim’s mother said that she could not forgive Mohammed, and Ansar Dine was forced to execute one of their own.
“Mohammed’s fellow Ansar Dine members looked moved by his execution”
A lot of people came to the execution, which took place in the centre of the city near the Azalaï hotel. I didn’t feel a great deal of emotion from the crowd. People just stood there and watched as if it were a show. In contrast, the members of Ansar Dine looked moved by the event. Mohammed had close relationships with a number of his peers. But they explained that no one is exempt from Sharia law, and because of that they had no choice but kill him. It was a question of God’s will.
It’s not the first time a member of Ansar Dine has been punished. I remember four recent incidents where people were subjected to beatings after being accused of moral indecency. To my knowledge, though, it is the first time they have put one of their own to death.