Islamists put north Mali towns under sharia law

ISLAMIC militants moved to impose sharia law in northern Mali yesterday after helping Tuareg separatists seize key towns, ransacking bars and banning Western-style clothes and music, residents said .

A 72-hour advance by rebels over the weekend, which exploited the chaotic aftermath of a military coup in the capital, is the latest threat to stability in West Africa.

Yesterday, a local in Timbuktu said Ansar Dine Islamists had declared they were in control and would impose Islamic law.

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A witness in the northern city of Gao, seized by rebels on Saturday, said Islamists there were ransacking bars and hotels serving alcohol. In Kidal, the third main town of the region, one resident said music had been barred from radio stations and Western-style clothes had been banned.

The head of the body representing the region’s nations said last night that the bloc is imposing financial sanctions on Mali because the junior officers that seized power in a coup 12 days ago have failed to restore constitutional order.

The Economic Community of West African States held an emergency meeting in Senegal yesterday. Ivory Coast’s president Alassane Ouattara said the sanctions, including the closing of Mali’s land borders and the cutting off of the nation’s access to the regional central bank, would come into effect immediately.