A couple of weeks ago, we did a post about the tiny country of Mali - raising the question of whether it could end up being Africa's Afghanistan?
Mali is one of Africa's poorest nations. But until this past spring, it was considered an example of democracy and stability.
A number of militant groups with ties to al-Qaida essentially have taken control of northern Mali, with plans to build a base for Islamic extremism.
The militants are said to be imposing a strict interpretation of Islamic Shari'a law, and training new fighters.
Today, an example of how strict and extreme the militants apparently are.
Associated Press is reporting that militants controlling the city of Timbuktu publicly whipped three unmarried couples.
According to AP, witnesses say the couples were between 16 and 22 years old and each of the six people received 100 lashes for having talked to each other on the city streets.
One witness told AP over the phone that the young people were arrested last week by the Islamic militants and were convicted yesterday of comingling. He said they were whipped today in Timbuktu's small market in the city centre.
Reports say they've also started raiding homes to seize satellite dishes, which allow people to watch foreign television channels.
"The Islamists say that foreign television 'is Satan'," a local journalist told AFP (Agence France Presse).
Residents and human rights groups say the militants have also arrested women who aren't wearing veils, stoned an unmarried couple to death, publicly flogged smokers and cut off the limbs of suspected thieves.
AFP says they also destroyed a monument to Mali's independence in Timbuktu, using a bulldozer.
And they've destroyed the tombs of ancient Muslim saints and the "sacred door" to a 15th-century mosque - which they condemn as idol worship.
About 400,000 people in northern Mali have been forced from their homes, since the militants took over.
West African leaders have approved a plan to send troops into Mali - about 3,300 of them - backed by the U.N. and the West.
But any offensive could take anywhere from six months to a year to prepare, as Mali's army is nowhere near ready for war.