Jihadists decapitate Malian accused of informing for French army

Malians walk past a billboard left by the MUJAO, an offshoot of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, on January 30, 2013, reading "Enforcing Sharia is the road to happiness, it is the road to paradise," in the northern city of Gao (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou) (AFP/File)

Bamako (AFP) - Militants from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) decapitated a Malian this week that they accused of aiding France's anti-jihadist operation in the region, security sources said Saturday.

"A Malian civilian accused of collaborating with French forces in the Barkhane operation was executed and decapitated by AQIM this week," a military source with the United Nations' MINUSMA mission in Mali said of Thursday's killing in the marketplace in Tichift, 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Timbuktu.

An official with a regional security service said AQIM fighters also distributed a tract to people in the market, threatening the same treatment to "all other traitors working against Islam for foreign forces in the Muslim land of northern Mali."

AQIM has previously executed civilians in northern Mali it accused of working with the French military and its allies in their two-year offensive against extremists.

That effort began after the northern half of Mali was taken over in the spring of 2012 by militias allied to Al-Qaeda, including AQIM, who imposed a brutal regime of Islamic law, and later threatened the capital Bamako.

Those jihadist forces were quickly routed and pushed north into the deserts of the Sahara by the French-led operation Serval in January 2013.

Serval was succeeded in August 2014 by operation Barkhane, which extended the anti-jihadist fight to the entire Sahel-Sahara region.

Despite that, extremist fighters continue operating in areas within that zone, as well as in pockets of northern Mali.