Mali: Army and Wagner Group accused of new misconduct

HORSEIn central Mali, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMAs) announced in a press release Friday.private April neutralized “203 fighters” from “armed terror groups” during an operation in the Sahel region in central Mali, between March 23 and 31. This operation was carried out as part of Operation Kélétigui (at Bambara (“warhead”), launched at the end of 2021, in which several dozen Russian and Malian soldiers were on the ground.

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Deadly counter-terrorism operation

In this region, where the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), a local branch of al-Qaeda, is very active, there is a village called Moura in the Djenne circle, 17 kilometers northeast of Kouakjourou. What exactly happened? It’s hard to tell that the versions are now split between the Malian military and the large number of testimonies gathered by local and international organizations and the media.

Agence France-Presse was not in a position to confirm the slightest report brought forward by the Malian army. However, already on Friday, he has urged the Malian general staff to “implement restraint against defamatory speculation” against the Malian armed forces.

Because regarding these operations, very quickly, various posts on social networks evoke “civilian massacre” in the same village.

According to compliant sources, most of it would be a helicopter attack, not a humane, real war. Indeed, Malian army helicopters flew over the village and began firing indiscriminately at the inhabitants of the village on Sunday, March 27, allegedly on the day of the fair, when several jihadists from GSIM’s Katiba Macina arrived from the market. . After it fell and received reinforcements, FAMAs reportedly launched a five-day siege of the village, during which the Malian army searched homes, interrogated residents, especially those from the Fulani community, and killed between 200 and 400 people. Later, soldiers would force some of the fairgrounds in Moura to dig graves to bury or cremate the people killed as part of these operations. Various sources mention the existence of a mass grave on the outskirts of the village.

If these numbers are confirmed, it will be the biggest massacre by Malian armed forces since the beginning of the war. For the General Staff, “respect for human rights and international humanitarian law remains a priority in the conduct of operations”.

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Repeated allegations of violence against civilians

However, from the beginning of the Moura siege, local and international NGOs have warned of the ongoing indiscriminate violence in the village. The information reaching the UN Mission in Mali is located in the Mopti region, not far away. Minusma said she was “aware of the conflicts” between the Malian army and extremist groups and admitted that she was “very concerned about allegations of violence” against civilians.

A week after the events, the gray areas remain. But in recent months, accusations of harassment against the Malian army and the mercenaries of the Wagner group have multiplied.

In a recent report to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Malian army and its “bilateral partners” to abide by their “international obligations” during counter-terrorism operations.

France, therefore, said it was “concerned by reports of mass abuses in the village of Moura by elements of the Malian armed forces, accompanied by Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, and which could lead to the death of hundreds of civilians.” Released from the Quai d’Orsay. It “calls for swift national and international investigations to establish responsibility for these acts and bring their perpetrators to justice” and “concerned that abuses and impunity have escalated in central Mali since the beginning of 2022”.

Finally, French diplomacy emphasizes that “the fight against terrorist groups operating in the Sahel can in no way justify human rights violations that “only strengthens these groups.” comes in a context in which it is in the process of being withdrawn.

In Brussels, European Union High Representative Josep Borrell also described the information on Monday about “hundreds of deaths in the village of Moura” as “very worrying”. It is essential for Minusma (UN Mission) to have access to the scene to support the transit authorities in their investigation,” he added. “The exemplary behavior of the State and security forces, whose primary duty is to protect the civilian population, will not suffer from any exception. »

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, described “the testimonies of the deaths of hundreds of people” as “disturbing” and said, “The conditions of the counter-terrorism operations carried out in Mali in recent weeks should be shed light on”.

On Sunday, the US State Department evaluated these allegations as “extremely disturbing” and quoted the Wagner company exactly. “This conflicting information illustrates the urgent need for Malian transit authorities to provide free, safe and unhindered access to researchers in the region where these tragic events took place. According to Minusma, jihadist violence has been taking place in middle-eastern Mali and the three so-called border areas (Mali, Niger and among Burkina Faso) killed dozens of civilians.

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