BAMAKO (Reuters) - Residents in the northern Malian town of Gao on Saturday lynched a prominent Islamist leader in retaliation for the killing of a local journalist earlier in the day, residents and the office of Mali's president said.
Residents in Gao, a northern Malian town under Islamist rebel control since mid-2012, have previously protested against the strict imposition of Islamic law but, if confirmed, the lynching would be a first of a fighter by civilians.
The incident comes after over a week of French air strikes on Islamist positions sought to break the grip of al Qaeda-linked fighters on northern Mali.
Gao journalist Kader Toure was killed for having been suspected of working with foreign radio stations, according to Issa Idrissa Toure, a former colleague.
"Islamic police commissioner Aliou Toure was killed by the youth in revenge," Mazou Toure, a Gao resident added.
Telephone networks in Gao are not working but both sources said they received the information from people who had travelled outside the town.
French broadcaster RFI interviewed a Gao resident by satellite telephone who gave a similar version of events. Meanwhile, the official Twitter feed of the office of Mali's president also reported the information.
Toure, the police commissioner, was a local recruited by MUJWA Islamists who took control of Gao in June last year.
He gained notoriety when he was reported to have cut off his own brother's hand as fighters imposed a strict form of Islamic law across northern Mali.
French war planes have bombed Islamist bases in Gao but residents said a number of fighters still remain in the town.
Reporting by Adama Diarra; Additional reporting and writing by David Lewis