"Islamic extremists in Gao broadcast amputations"

 On January 1, Islamic extremists from th Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) movement in Gao broadcast footage they had filmed of two men punished according to Islamic Sharia law. One man was amputated, the other flogged. Our Observer witnessed a similar occurrence just a week earlier.


Several members of the MUJAO only minutes before the amputation. The clothing of the man on the left bears the inscription “Gao Islamic Police”. Screenshot from a video filmed by the group.


On January 1, Islamic extremists from the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) in Gao broadcast footage they had filmed of two men punished according to the movement's strict interpretation of Sharia law. One man had his hand amputated, the other was flogged. Our Observer witnessed a similar occurrence just a week earlier.


According to the video, the first man punished by the Islamic extremist group was accused of stealing from “three stores and one woman”. The group claims his name is Argu Ma’isa, that he is a repeat offender, and that he has admitted to his wrongdoings. Accordingly, the men on the video explain, “we will cut his hand off in front of the public”. They proceed to amputate his hand with a knife.


A member of the Islamic police amputates the alleged thief.


The other man is alleged to have had sexual relations with a “mentally deficient girl […]”. The judge condemned him to 100 whip lashes and banned him from the city for a year, according to one of the movement’s leaders. The man was publicly flogged.


According to our contacts on the ground, these events happened last week. The video was uploaded on the YouTube channel of a Jihadist group that is calling itself the “as-Asab foundation for media production”. The propaganda video is interspersed with verses from the Koran and calls for Jihad. We chose to only show screenshots.


The public flogging.


The MUJAO took over the city of Gao in Spring 2012. Since then, its members have been implementing a harsh version of Sharia law. Music is forbidden, women must wear full headscarves, and adultery is punished by the death sentence.

"On that day, only the MUJAO were allowed to film"

Fode X. (not his real name) lives in Gao. On December 22, he witnessed a different amputation by the MUJAO.


During the thief's amputation, there were about 20 Islamic extremist soldiers present, some local journalists “invited” for the occasion, and a number of onlookers.


According to the Islamic extremist regime, justice is dealt in the following manner: first, the population indicates a crime to the Islamic police, who are located in the city hall and the police station. Then, a complaint is filed. Mondays and Thursdays are the judgement days. The sentences are carried out on the other days. During the judgement days, the fate of the accused lies with the victims. The “judge” asks the victims whether they are willing to forgive the alleged perpetrators. If the victims refuse to forgive, the sentence is carried out. If the victims are willing to forgive, the sentence is lightened—for instance, an amputation can be transformed into a prison sentence or exile abroad.


The MUJAO continues to promote its version of justice. A journalist friend explained to me that he is regularly called by the MUJAO to visit prisoners. The MUJAO asks him to report what he sees in order to warn the population. He was also “invited” on the day of the amputation; he does not actually have a real choice to turn down this request. But on the day of the amputation only members of the MUJAO were allowed to film.


“People here refuse to watch these scenes, it shocks them deeply”


There are very few journalists here. For instance, out of four radio stations, only two are still allowed to broadcast current events. The other two are now dedicated to preaching and reading the Koran. The MUJAO has an iron grip over what is said and knows how to apply pressure so that its version of events is always the one that is aired. Everyone is forced to obey.


At first, the MUJAO announced publicly when it was applying Sharia law. They wanted everyone to come watch. But people here aren’t like that, these punishments shock them deeply. And youths took advantage of these occasions to display their anger. Since then, the MUJAO has become more discreet, because although they want us to obey their laws, they don’t want to create unnecessary problems with the public.


Soldiers and onlookers watch the scene.