The United Nations says amputations, floggings and public executions -- like the July stoning of a couple who had reportedly had an affair -- became common in areas controlled by radical Islamists. They applied a strict interpretation of Sharia law in banning music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television, and damaged Timbuktu's historic tombs and shrines.
Already, the armed groups' activity and a pervasive drought have displaced hundreds of thousands of Malians.
And the Islamists' movement southward has raised concerns among leaders in West Africa and elsewhere, some of them calling for swift and decisive military intervention in support of Mali's government, based in Bamako.
The U.N. Security Council last month authorized a one-year military peacekeeping mission in the country. Members of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, pledged thousands of troops, and the Security Council has urged other nations to contribute forces as well.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment