Two young, unmarried lovers, apparently with children, were buried up to their necks then stoned to death in a Mali town taken over by Islamist extremists. Bearded men, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, dragged the couple from the countryside into the center of the town of Aguelhok, reports the New York Times. "I was there," said a local government official. "The couple was placed in two holes and the Islamists stoned them to death. It was horrible,” he said, adding that the woman cried out and man yelled during the attack. “It was inhuman. They killed them like they were animals.”
The men who executed the two in front of hundreds of stunned witnesses said they deserved to die, according to the local official. "They said it was the law of Shariah that prescribed it, that God willed it,” he said. Almost all of northern Mali is now in the hands of Islamists linked to al-Qaeda, following a rebellion against the government, notes the BBC. The Islamists have been harshly criticized for destroying ancient shrines to saints in Timbuktu revered by Sufi Muslims. Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore is calling for Malians to unite against the "invaders," referring to the northern Islamists, who he said "leave only desolation, deprivation and pain in their wake."