Since jihadi rebels and Tuaregs seized power in Mali’s north following a coup in the capital Bamako, hardline punishment has been meted out to any criminal caught. After serving their punishment, criminals are sent to a hospital in the desert city of Gao in northeast Mali where they are guarded by heavily armed militants.
“I admit to having attacked a bus full of travellers,” one of the men, Ardo, murmurs to AFP after a reporter gained access to the room.“But that’s not worth them cutting off a hand and a foot.”
An 18 year old man identified as Yoro said, “I was so afraid that I wanted to kill myself.”
“How could they just lop off my hand like that? Now my life is in hospital, it’s sad for me,” says Yoro who, like the other amputees, is aged about 18.
At least one of the punishments was meted out in public, with the accused’s hand and foot severed with a knife.
The men have no idea when they will be allowed to leave the hospital or what they will do once they are free.
A man on another bed says he felt “absolutely nothing” when the amputation occurred.
“They gave me tablets to take just before. I didn’t feel a thing, I was drugged,” says the young man, wrapped in a robe, without trousers, his leg stump exposed.
One of the group’s younger members says: “I went with the others who carried out the theft but I wasn’t armed. And I did not know they were going to chop off a hand and a foot.”
“It’s over. I’ll never work,” one of the men says. Another says he’ll have to spend his life in hiding.
Moulaye Djite, a doctor at the hospital said the men were responding to treatment.
“At the moment, I can’t say that they are suffering. There’s no infection, nothing. I think it will be OK,” Djite says, clearly intimidated by the looming presence of the armed guards posted around the hospital.
“This is just how things are. Our job is to care for the sick. This is what we do,” he says.
The unrest in Mali continues as the government’s cry to the UN for help has not been fully responded to.