An unmarried couple who engages in sexual relations has been stoned to death by Islamic militants in northern Mali over the weekend, reflecting the deepening presence of strict Sharia law in the region.

According to reports, the couple were buried up to their necks and pelted with stones in the town of Aguelhok, which is a key town controlled by separatists Tuareg rebels who staged a coup against the Malan government a few months ago.

"The Islamists took the unmarried couple to the center of Aguelhok. The couple was placed in two holes and the Islamists stoned them to death," a local government official told Agence France Presse.

"The woman fainted after the first few blows.