According to HRW, Malian forces and alleged Russian mercenaries killed 300 civilians in the center of the country

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According to HRW, Malian forces and alleged Russian mercenaries killed 300 civilians in the center of the country Listen to this article

A German Minusma soldier explores artistic mines on a Malian street in 2018.
A German Minusma soldier explores artistic mines on a Malian street in 2018.Selu (AFP)

It was the deadliest massacre in the Sahel in the Ten Years’ War. According to several testimonials on the ground by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Malian forces and alleged Russian mercenaries killed some 300 civilians in central Mali’s Moura town between March 27 and 31. For its part, the Malian government has admitted to “eliminating” 203 jihadist fighters during an anti-terrorist operation in an area controlled by hardliners, although many evidence assures that the dead were a large number of unarmed civilians with no There was no relation. with armed groups.

The incident came to light around 10 a.m. on March 27, when at least four helicopters opened fire on a group of jihadists who were at the animal market in Maura town, where they used to go in search of food. Once on land, soldiers of the Malian army and a hundred Russian trainers, possibly members of the Wagner Company, besieged the city of Moura and proceeded to briefly execute hundreds of men for four days, according to testimony in the complaint. Among them are from the Peul ethnic group who are often accused of colluding with jihadists. Moura residents told Human Rights Watch that dozens of bodies were found shot in the head and many of them were burned or buried in mass graves.

A witness told HRW that “some of those killed were real jihadists, but many others were killed simply because they were forced by the jihadists to wear their short pants or long beards.” Other sources explained that “soldiers targeted Peele and let others go.” Witnesses say white soldiers who spoke “weird languages” took part in the military operation. Russian trainers allegedly linked to Wagner have cooperated with the Malian military in counter-terrorist operations in central Mali since late 2021.

The United Nations, the European Union, France and the United States have expressed their concern over the Maura incidents. The United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Mali (Minusma) has announced the launch of an investigation to clarify what happened, while the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, assured that “the terms of the anti-terrorist operations will be highlighted”. Needed. Last few weeks in Mali. The news of hundreds of deaths is disturbing. The fight against terrorism cannot be done at the cost of respect for human rights.

Evidence about the massacres carried out by the Malian armed forces in collaboration with Russian trainers, allegedly members of the private company Wagner, has increased in recent months in the context of the withdrawal of the French Barkhane operation from the country. The massacres of civilians in Nampala, Dogofry and Dybali in recent weeks also point to the responsibility of the Malian army, which continues to receive training through the EUTM training mission by the European Union, in which half a thousand Spanish soldiers participate. Huh.

“The fight against terrorism cannot in any way justify massive violations of human rights. The exemplary behavior of the state and its security forces, whose main objective is to protect the civilian population, should suffer no exception. Upon learning of these massacres, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell said, “Having learned of these massacres, impunity has to be fought seriously and with the utmost urgency. Needed.”

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HRW’s Sahel director Corinne Dufka has called for an immediate and fair investigation to be launched to find out what happened and to define responsibilities, including “the involvement of foreign troops.” In his opinion, the African Union and the United Nations should participate in the said investigation.

The military junta, which has ruled Mali since 2020, has strengthened its military agreements with Russia, including the deployment of mercenaries from the private company Wagner, as condemned by many Western countries. Soldiers of this company have committed several human rights violations in recent years in countries such as the Central African Republic, Libya or Syria. At the same time, the French Operation Barkhane, which swelled to 5,500 Gallic troops in the Sahel, began its withdrawal from Mali, accelerated by the landing of Russian trainers.

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