Bokar Faradji, the wife’s father, climbed down with the shovel.
The young woman seemed to fold inwards. She sat down on the lip of the dune and pulled her veil around her face. When the body began to emerge, she said she recognized her husband’s robe. When she saw his black pants, she began to sob.
‘‘Be strong,’’ said her father, Bokar Faradji.
Gently, he scraped away the sand near the corpse’s head. Tufts of hair appeared. Then a bullet fell out of the sand.
The father picked it up, and threw it back.
Mohamed Lamine, a man in his 50s, was lying face down in the dune. His friend, the carpet seller, lay nearby in the same blue boubou he was wearing when he was loaded into the military pickup. Overwhelmed, the family stopped, then shoveled the dirt back.
A spokesman for the Malian military in Timbuktu, Capt. Samba Coulibaly, declined to answer questions about the discovery of the body. ‘‘I don’t know anything about it,’’ he told the AP by telephone.
Residents say it’s possible Lamine had ties to the Islamic rebels, who imposed their brutal, unyielding form of Islam on the relatively moderate Muslim culture that has long been the norm in this landlocked, Saharan nation. His detractors point out that his school was allegedly built with funds from Saudi Arabian sponsors, and that he is a relative of Sanda Abou Mohamed, a leader of the radical Ansar Dine Islamic group that ruled Timbuktu for the past 10 months.
His family doesn’t deny the family tie to the Ansar Dine leader, but claims Lamine was not part of the armed group — why else, they argue, would he have stayed in Timbuktu when most of the city’s Arab population had fled in fear of reprisal?
‘‘On Monday, when he was taken away, my daughter came running home to tell me that her husband had been arrested,’’ Arby’s father said as he stood over his son-in-law’s grave. ‘‘I told her not to worry, be strong. Because if he has done something wrong, we have courts, and he will be judged. I believe in our system of justice. I believe in the army of Mali.’’
‘‘Now I don’t know what to do,’’ he said. ‘‘What should I say? What should I tell my daughter who has tears streaming down her face?’’