Gunmen Kill At Least 20 Civilians In Mali

Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.
Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.

 

Raiders in Mali killed at least 20 civilians in attacks on villages near the northern town of Gao over the weekend, while a landmine killed a UN peacekeeper in the troubled region.

“Criminal terrorists” on Saturday killed at least 20 civilians in several hamlets in the Anchawadj commune, a few dozen kilometres north of Gao, said a senior police officer who asked to remain anonymous.

A local official blamed the attacks on jihadists and put the death toll at 24, saying the killings occurred at Ebak, some 35 kilometres (23 miles) north of Gao, the region’s main town.

The official described a “general panic” in the area.

READ ALSO: Gunmen Abduct Former NFF Secretary-General Sani Toro And Ex-Eagles Assistant Coach

The situation in Anchawadj was “very concerning,” and civilians were fleeing the area fearing further violence, he added.

Following the bloodshed on Saturday, a landmine killed a UN peacekeeper on Sunday as he was out on patrol further north in Kidal, the head of the UN’s MINUSMA Mali force, El Ghassim Wane, tweeted.

The spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the killing of the peacekeeper, who he said was from Guinea.

“Attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law,” added the spokesperson.

Separatists And Jihadists 

While there has been no official confirmation that the attacks were carried out by jihadist groups, fighters affiliated to either Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group are active in the region.

The region has become increasingly violent and unstable since Tuareg separatist rebels rose up against the government in 2012.

Jihadist fighters took advantage of their rebellion to launch their own offensive, threatening the capital Bamako in the south until a French-led force pushed them back in 2013.

The Tuareg separatists and the government agreed to a peace accord in 2015, but it has yet to be applied.

So now Mali’s weak, national government faces both separatist and jihadist insurgencies in the north of the country — a largely desert region that is all but devoid of state infrastructure.

“A good part of the Gao region and that of Menaka” are occupied by the jihadists, said the official in Gao. “The state must do something.”

Some of the rebel groups have also been fighting each other as they battle for influence and territory. Adding to the volatile mix are traffickers and other criminal groups.

Government stability meanwhile has been interrupted by military coups in August 2020 and May 2021.

Following his latest report into the area, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last month warned that instability in Mali and Burkina Faso were undermining attempts to stabilise the region.

The security situation in the Gao region had badly deteriorated in recent months, he said.

He also voiced concern over Menaka, the eastern region bordering Niger.

Initially captured by a Tuareg rebel group a decade ago, it was subsequently taken over by Islamist groups.

AFP

French Army Quits Mali Base Ahead Of Total Pullout

French army soldiers disembark from an VBMR Griffon armoured vehicle as they take part in a demonstration at the Eurosatory international land and airland defence and security trade fair, in Villepinte, a northern suburb of Paris, on June 12, 2022. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP
French army soldiers disembark from an VBMR Griffon armoured vehicle as they take part in a demonstration at the Eurosatory international land and airland defence and security trade fair, in Villepinte, a northern suburb of Paris, on June 12, 2022. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

French troops were on Monday handing back a military base in northeastern Mali ahead of a final withdrawal from the Sahel nation, France’s army said, after nine years fighting a jihadist insurgency.

And the UN’s emissary there warned that their withdrawal could leave Menaka, where they were based, vulnerable to a jihadist attack.

The departure from the Menaka base “was conducted in good order, safely and in transparent fashion”, said French army spokesman General Pascal Ianni in Paris.

READ ALSO: Guinea-Bissau President Sacks Three Ministers Just After One Day

It comes ahead of the last withdrawal from Mali “at the end of the summer” when France’s main military base at Gao will be returned to Malian forces, he added.

But El-Ghassim Wane, the UN Secretary General’s special representative in Mali, warned that the pull-out could spell trouble for Menaka.

He had visited the town two weeks ago, he said, and people there he had spoken to “did not rule out an attack on Menaka town”, where 5,000 people forced to flee the violence in the region had taken shelter.

“Should this scenario come to pass, the MINUSMA base is likely to be perceived as the last haven for civilians fleeing violence,” Wane added, referring to the base of the UN peacekeeping force in Mali.

But he warned: “With minimal Malian forces in the area and some 600 peacekeepers available to protect civilians, UN personnel and assets, MINUSMA’s ability to mount an effective response is limited.”

Deteriorating relations

Former colonial ruler France set up the Menaka outpost in 2018 in the wild tri-border zone where Mali meets Niger and Burkina Faso. It housed French and European special forces under the name Takuba tasked with training up local troops.

General Ianni told journalists the Takuba operation would not be transferred to neighbouring Niger.

France launched anti-jihadist operations in the Sahel in 2013, helping Mali snuff out a revolt in the north.

But the jihadists regrouped to attack the volatile centre of the country, initiating a fiery insurgency that elected president Ibrahim Bubacar Keita was unable to crush.

In August 2020, protests against Keita culminated in a coup by disgruntled colonels — followed by a second military takeover in May 2021.

From then on, relations with France went steadily downhill, propelled by the junta’s resistance to setting an early date to restore civilian rule and by Bamako’s charges that France was inciting the region to take a hard line against it.

The bust-up accelerated in 2021 as the junta wove closer ties with Moscow, bringing in “military instructors” that France and its allies condemned as mercenaries hired from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group.

France not quitting Sahel

The French operation across the Sahel counted at its peak in 2020 some 5,500 troops before Paris started to reduce the numbers gradually and close the most forward bases at Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu in northern Mali.

Last January, the French ambassador to Bamako was expelled and the following month President Emmanuel Macron announced the total withdrawal from Mali as relations and security deteriorated.

However, the army said Monday that French forces were not quitting the Sahel region.

“The commitment to the struggle against terrorism, alongside the states of the region, at their request, remains an absolute priority,” the spokesman said.

AFP

ECOWAS Undecided On Sanctions Against Mali, Burkina Faso And Guinea

President Muhammadu Buhari participates at the 6th Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government on the Political situations in Burkina Faso and the Republic of Guinea and Mali in Ghana on June 4, 2022. Bayo Omoboriowo/State House
President Muhammadu Buhari participates at the 6th Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government on the Political situations in Burkina Faso and the Republic of Guinea and Mali in Ghana on June 4, 2022. Bayo Omoboriowo/State House

 

West African leaders on Saturday failed to agree what action to take against military juntas in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, postponing a decision for a month, insiders at the meeting said.

They decided to wait until the next ECOWAS summit on July 3, a senior source in the Ghanian presidency told AFP, asking to remain anonymous.

Another source said the leaders had not been able to agree, “particularly over Mali”.

The summit in Ghana’s capital Accra had been billed as the forum to agree whether to ease or ramp up sanctions against the three junta-ruled nations facing jihadist insurgencies.

READ ALSO: Consider The People In Sanctions Against Coup Plotters, Buhari Tells ECOWAS Leaders

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had met in a bid to rule whether to keep, lighten or lift retaliatory measures on Mali, imposed in January after its military regime announced plans to stay in power for another five years.

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo opened the summit, attended by the heads of state of most of the 15-member countries but without any representative from Mali, Burkina Faso or Guinea visible in the audience.

“This present summit will re-examine and assess the situations in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso in light of recent developments within the region and global context,” he said.

“Our objective has always been to find ways to help these countries return to constitutional order.”

Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali are currently suspended from ECOWAS bodies.

While Mali has already been slapped with sanctions, the other two countries risk further punitive measures from the bloc after ruling juntas in their respective capitals vowed to hold onto power for another three years.

West Africa has seen a succession of military coups in less than two years — two in Bamako, followed by Conakry in September 2021 and Ouagadougou in January.

Insurgency

ECOWAS, keen to limit political instability spreading further, has held summits and tried to pile on pressure to shorten the juntas’ so-called transition periods before a return to civilian rule.

But strongmen Colonel Assimi Goita in Mali, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya in Guinea and Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba in Burkina Faso, have all resisted that pressure and since been sworn in as presidents.

They invoke the severity of domestic crises — that span jihadist insurgency to social problems — and claim they need time to rebuild their states and organise elections.

A UN report published last week said the West African sanctions had contributed to worsening living conditions, particularly for the poor.

One of the most volatile and impoverished countries in the world, Mali is battling a decade-old jihadist revolt, which began with a regional insurrection and then spread to Niger and Burkina Faso.

ECOWAS closed borders and suspended trade and financial exchanges, except for basic necessities.

In Guinea, the military overthrew president Alpha Conde in September and has vowed a return to civilian rule in three years.

Burkina Faso’s government was overthrown in January, when disgruntled colonels ousted elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

AFP

Consider The People In Sanctions Against Coup Plotters, Buhari Tells ECOWAS Leaders

President Muhammadu Buhari participates at the 6th Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government on the Political situations in Burkina Faso and the Republic of Guinea and Mali in Ghana on June 4, 2022. Bayo Omoboriowo/State House
President Muhammadu Buhari participates at the 6th Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government on the Political situations in Burkina Faso and the Republic of Guinea and Mali in Ghana on June 4, 2022. Bayo Omoboriowo/State House

 

President Muhammadu Buhari says any decision to be taken by ECOWAS leaders on the political situations in Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea must consider the victims of unconstitutional changes of government and the adverse consequences of isolation on them.

The President spoke on Saturday in Accra, Ghana at the 6th Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State on the political situations in the three countries.

According to a statement signed by presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina, the President expressed concern that since the last Summit of ECOWAS leaders on March 25 this year, not much has been achieved in terms of having an acceptable time table for the conduct of elections to restore democratic rule in the affected countries.

READ ALSO: I Did Not Disrespect Buhari In Abeokuta, I Have High Regard For Him – Tinubu

He noted that although the military leadership in Burkina Faso has released President Kabore in line with the request by ECOWAS leaders , further measures must be taken to ensure his safety and full freedom.

President Buhari warned that the security situation in both Mali and Burkina Faso has reached alarming levels with incessant attacks by extremist groups on the civilian populace and military facilities, aggravating the humanitarian condition in the two countries.

‘‘The deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Mali and Burkina Faso should be a source of serious concern to us as leaders in the region. As you may be aware, the world is still recovering from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which wrecked the global economy.

‘‘While our economies begin to recover, the impact of the war between Russia and Ukraine has led to a surge in prices of many commodities including foodstuffs.

‘‘We are, therefore, left with no option but to devise means of sustaining our economies by becoming more creative and evolving in finding other channels of demand and supply, in order to ensure that we cushion the effect of the war and prevent our economies from collapsing, and our people remain productive.

‘‘We must, therefore, ensure that, in whatever decision we take, we must remember the mass of the populations in the affected countries, who are victims of the unconstitutional change of government and the adverse consequences of isolation brought about,’’ he said.

To this end, the Nigerian leader called on the Authority to revisit the report presented by former President Goodluck Jonathan, the ECOWAS Mediator on Mali, on a transition timetable for the West African country.

President Buhari noted that Jonathan had recommended 16 months transitional timeframe ‘‘as well as his further personal appeal and observation to us to give the military leadership in Mali up to 18 months for the conduct of election, starting from March 2022.’’

‘‘Furthermore, Nigeria is also calling on the Authority to consider the proposal earlier made for the Chair to personally visit Bamako and present this proposal. Nigeria equally welcomes the magnanimous offer by President Macky Sall, Chair of the Assembly of African Union to accompany H.E. President Nana Addo to Bamako for the purpose.

‘‘From our findings, we are certain that the high-level visit proposed would be welcomed by the military leadership and would achieve the needed consensus. At the same time, the region must be ready to provide the needed support to Mali to return to democratic rule as soon as possible.’’

On the situation in Guinea and Burkina Faso, President Buhari expressed concern that, till date, their proposed timeframes are not in tandem with the expectations of the regional leaders as well as their respective citizens.

He urged the military authorities in Burkina Faso and Guinea to renew their determination and immediately provide acceptable timeframes for the return to democracy in their respective countries.

He announced that Nigeria fully supports any action, including imposition of further sanctions that the Authority may adopt to compel the military leaderships in the two countries to submit an acceptable electoral timetable.

‘‘Nevertheless, there is need for ECOWAS to continue to engage the military leaderships and key stakeholders in Burkina Faso and Guinea in order to reach an agreeable understanding, especially on the transition timeframes,’’ he said.

Earlier, the Chairperson of the Authority and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, thanked his counterparts for their strong commitment to democracy, peace and stability in the region and for staying focused on the situation in the countries.

President Akufo-Addo, who acknowledged the presence of African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the Summit hopes to find lasting solutions to political instability and the resurgence of coup d’états in the region since August 2020.

‘Armed Men Kidnap’ 3 Italians And A Togolese In Mali

A file photo of two armed men.

 

 

 

Armed men have kidnapped an Italian couple and their child as well as a Togolese national in southeastern Mali, a local official and a Malian security source told AFP Friday.

They said the abductions occurred late Thursday about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the border with Burkina Faso, part of a west African region hit by turmoil, kidnappings as well as conflict blamed on armed jihadists.

“Armed men in a vehicle kidnapped three Italians and a Togolese about 10 kilometres (six miles) from Koutiala,” late Thursday, an official from the Koutiala region who asked not to be named said.

He said the victims were two Italian adults and their child as well as a Togolese, adding they were all Jehovah’s Witnesses.

A Malian security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said two Italian adults and their child, along with a Togolese, were kidnapped.

He described the abductees as “religious people”.

He said the abductions took place in the southeastern town of Sincina, around 100 kilometres from the Burkina Faso border.

“We are doing everything to obtain their release,” the person said, adding that diplomatic lines of communication were open.

The Italian foreign ministry later confirmed in a short statement “the kidnapping of three compatriots in Mali”.

It said it was making “every effort” to secure a positive outcome to the case, while emphasising, “in agreement with family members, the need to maintain the utmost discretion”.

Earlier, it said that Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio was personally following the case.

– Frequent kidnappings –
A number of foreigners have been kidnapped across the border in Burkina Faso in recent years.

Kidnappings are frequent in Mali, though motives span from criminal to political reasons.

In most cases, the conditions or circumstances of the release of kidnap victims is never clearly established.

Mali has since 2012 been wracked by a jihadist insurgency by groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. Vast swathes of the country are in thrall to myriad rebel groups and militias.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes amid violence that began in the north of the country and spread to the centre, and then to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Olivier Dubois, a 47-year-old French freelance journalist who has been living and working in Mali since 2015, was kidnapped more than a year ago.

He announced his abduction himself in a video posted on social networks on May 5, 2021. In it, he said he had been kidnapped in the northern city of Gao by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, which is linked to Al-Qaeda.

On March 13, a video circulated on social networks showing a man who appears to be the French journalist addressing his relatives and the French government.

Mali Junta Says It Thwarted Coup Attempt

 

 

Mali’s military junta on Monday said it thwarted an attempted coup last week led by army officers and supported by an unnamed Western state.

The statement read out on state television said a “small group of anti-progressive Malian officers and non-commissioned officers attempted a coup in the night of May 11 to 12, 2022”.

“These soldiers were supported by a Western state. The attempt was thwarted thanks to the vigilance and professionalism of the defence and security forces.”

The statement gave few details on what allegedly happened.

It mentioned arrests and said the detainees would be handed over to justice. Their identity and whereabouts were not revealed.

It added that checks have been strengthened around the capital Bamako and at Mali’s borders.

A military source speaking on condition of anonymity spoke of around 10 arrests and said others were underway.

The government statement said “all necessary means” were being mobilised for the investigation and to find accomplices.

No indication of the attempted coup that reportedly happened last week had surfaced until Monday evening.

Mali has undergone two military coups since August 2020, when the army ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The West African state has been fighting a jihadist insurgency against groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group since 2012 in the north and centre of the country.

The fighting has also spread to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

The country’s military-dominated government has broken with traditional partner France and forged closer ties with Russia in its battle against the jihadists.

It had pledged to return power to civilians by February 2022 but has since extended the timetable, incurring regional sanctions.

UN Chief Urges Swift Return To Civilian Rule In Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali

In this file photo taken on February 4, 2020 United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. \ (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

 

UN chief Antonio Guterres called Sunday for the military juntas in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali to hand power back to civilians as soon as possible and reminded the world to deliver on “climate emergency” promises.

Speaking after meeting Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, he said they had agreed on the need to keep talking to the de facto authorities in all three countries so as to get a swift return to “constitutional order”.

All three countries, struggling with a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region, have recently experienced military coups: Mali in August 2020 and May 2021; Guinea in September 2021; and Burkina Faso in January 2022.

Sall is the current chair of the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has suspended all three countries from its membership.

ECOWAS imposed heavy sanctions against Mali in January after the regime there rejected a rapid return to civilian rule.

It has threatened similar sanctions against Guinea and Burkina Faso if they fail to enable a swift transition to civilian rule within a “reasonable” timeframe.

But the military regimes in both countries rejected the timetable set out by ECOWAS.

Last Monday, Ouagadougou said they had no plans to shorten the three-year transition period they had already announced.

And on Saturday evening, Guinea’s junta leader Colonel Mamady Doumbouya said he had opted for a 39-month transition period to civilian rule.

The decision was roundly condemned Sunday by opposition leaders in Guinea, including both the party of the ousted president Alpha Conde and opposition groups that had opposed him.

The regime in Mali is also continuing to defy ECOWAS pressure.

On April 21 it announced the launch of a two-year transition “process” before elections are held.

ECOWAS had called for elections within 16 months at the most.

– Triple crisis –

Turning to the issue of global warming, Guterres said “the climate emergency… increases the security risk”.

African countries, he said, were “often the first victims” of global warming for which they are “not responsible”.

Developed countries had pledged to help the countries of the south to finance their “transition towards renewable energies and green jobs”, he noted.

“It’s time to take action. It’s time to keep the promise of 100 billion dollars a year made in Paris,” he said, referring to national pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement aimed at capping global warming below two degrees Celsius.

In Dakar, Guterres visited the site of the future headquarters of the UN’s regional operations as well as a manufacturing unit soon to produce Covid-19 vaccines and also experimental anti-malaria and tuberculosis vaccines.

Guterres also addressed the consequences of the war in Ukraine on Africa, where he said the conflict “aggravates a triple crisis: food, energy and financial”.

To enable the countries of the continent to cope, Guterres urged once again international financial institutions to put in place “urgently… debt relief measures… so that governments can avoid default and invest in social safety nets and sustainable development for their people”.

Six Soldiers Killed, 20 Injured In Mali ‘Terror’ Attacks

The Malian flag is hoisted during the handover ceremony of the Barkhane military base from the French to the Malian army in Timbuktu, on December 14, 2021. FLORENT VERGNES / AFP

 

 

Six soldiers were killed and 20 injured in simultaneous attacks targeting three army bases in central Mali Sunday, the Malian army said.

Targets in Sevare, Niono and Bapho were all hit by “armed terrorist groups (who) used suicide vehicles packed with explosives”, the army said in a statement.

A group linked to the firebrand preacher Amadou Koufa claimed the attacks, according to audio sent to AFP Sunday from a source close to the suspected attackers.

The group, Katiba of Macina, belongs to the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), an Al-Qaeda-linked alliance and the biggest jihadist network in the Sahel.

“On Sunday morning, the mujahideen of the Katiba of Macina struck three camps of the (Malian armed forces),” a member of the group told AFP in an audio message.

The source said Bapho and Niono were hit, in line with information from Mali’s army.

It also said Segou was attacked, which was not among the targets mentioned by the Malian army.

“We hit these camps at the same time within five minutes of each other. (Apart from the) deaths, we caused material damage to them,” the audio recording said.

Military sources earlier told AFP the attacks occurred at 0500 GMT in Sevare, Niono and Bapho, all in the centre of the country.

The Malian army said six soldiers died and 15 were injured in Sevare, while 11 attackers including the suicide vehicle driver were killed.

Another soldier was injured in Bapho and a further four in Niono.

– ’10 terrorists neutralised’ –
In Sevare, “there was a double terrorist attack with shots fired and machinery exploded. The army retaliated,” one of the military sources said.

Along with the 11 attackers killed, three more were arrested, the army said, adding that “a lot of military equipment” had been recovered from the attackers.

In a separate incident, a military unit on patrol in central Mali was ambushed and “10 terrorists were neutralised”, the army said.

“The situation is under control. The FAMa (Malian armed forces) are combing through the target sectors and security measures are being reinforced in all rights of way,” it said in its statement.

“We have asked MINUSMA (the UN Mission in Mali), as part of our collaboration, to send a rapid intervention force near the Sevare camp to help secure it,” the source continued.

A separate military source within MINUSMA confirmed the information.

MINUSMA “strongly condemned” the attacks and confirmed it had deployed a rapid reaction force to Sevare in a Twitter post.

The collapse of a police station caused most of the soldiers’ deaths in Sevare, the army statement said, adding that a helicopter and two vehicles had also been damaged.

The army said it had collected two AK-47 assault rifles, mobile phones and military equipment from the attackers.

– Regional instability –
One of the poorest countries in the world, Mali is struggling with a decade-long jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.

The unrest caused by groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group has also spread into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

The latest assault on the Malian military came as Burkina Faso on Sunday reported that five of its soldiers died in a jihadist attack that killed around 10 people in the north of the country.

Public anger at elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s failure to roll back the insurgency provided the spark for a military takeover in Mali in August 2020.

The insurgency’s southward advance from northern Mali prompted France to intervene in 2013 as violence increased with the formation of ethnic-based self-defence groups and criminal gangs.

But Paris in February announced it would end its almost decade-long military operation in Mali amid a diplomatic crisis with the Bamako junta over its alleged use of Russian mercenaries.

The Malian government denies the accusations and says it is using Russian military instructors.

France and the United States have said they are fighters from the private paramilitary group Wagner, whose presence has been recorded in other conflict-torn African nations such as the Central African Republic and Libya.

Mali Takes Delivery Of Two More Russian Combat Helicopters

Photo: [email protected] Presidence Mali

 

Mali’s ruling junta on Monday announced the delivery of two more combat helicopters and surveillance radars from Russia as the West African nation tackles a bloody jihadist insurgency.

Photographs of the equipment being unloaded from a Russian cargo flight at Bamako international airport were posted on the official Twitter account of Mali’s presidency.

“We are receiving this second batch of military equipment from Russia,” said army chief of staff General Oumar Diarra.

“It’s a sign of a very fruitful partnership with the Russian state,” he said in a statement.

The delivery brings to eight the known number of helicopters that Moscow has provided under closer ties forged by rebel colonels who seized power in 2020.

Russia has also supplied what are officially described as military instructors — personnel that former colonial power France and the United States say are operatives from Russia’s Wagner security group.

They have been helping the impoverished Sahel nation fight a decade-old jihadist campaign that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Mali’s rapprochement with the Kremlin has prompted French forces and their European allies to announce their exit from the country.

Visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned in Bamako last Wednesday that European forces would not cooperate with Mali’s military while it maintains such links with Russia.

There have been allegations that Malian troops, in coordination with foreign fighters, massacred hundreds of civilians in late March.

The army-dominated government regularly defends the rights record of its military and has also repeatedly denied hiring Wagner operatives.

AFP

Mali Arrests 3 Europeans For ‘Terrorism’ – Army

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 03, 2020 Burkina Faso soldiers patrol aboard a pick-up truck on the road from Dori to the Goudebo refugee camp.(Photo by OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP)

 

 

 

Three Europeans suspected of “terrorism” have been arrested in central Mali during operations against jihadists, the Malian army said Tuesday without giving identifying details. 

“The Malian military detachment from Diabaly carried out the arrest on April 10, 2022, of five suspects including three European nationals,” the general staff said in a statement.

The statement did not identify the suspects, who were arrested in Diabaly, about 300 kilometres (185 miles) northwest of Bamako.

Ruled by a military junta since August 2020, Mali has been in a political crisis since 2012.

The spread of jihadists from the north has spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

UN Demands Urgent Access To Site Of Alleged Mali Massacre

A protester holds a flag of Mali during a demonstration to support Mali on Obelisk Plazza in Dakar, on January 28, 2022. SEYLLOU / AFP
A protester holds a flag of Mali during a demonstration to support Mali on Obelisk Plazza in Dakar, on January 28, 2022.
SEYLLOU / AFP

 

A UN envoy on Thursday demanded access to the Malian village of Moura, site of an alleged massacre last month by local forces and suspected Russian fighters.

The UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, was able to fly over the site on April 3.

But its envoy for the Sahel nation, El-Ghassim Wane, told the Security Council an “integrated mission” had yet to receive a green light “despite extensive engagement with the national authorities.”

Mali’s army announced on April 1 that it had killed 203 militants in Moura, in central Mali, during an operation in late March.

However, that announcement followed widely shared social media reports of a civilian massacre in the area.

Human Rights Watch also said this week that Malian forces and foreign fighters killed 300 civilians in Moura in late March, in what it called “the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict.”

Several witnesses and other sources identified the foreign soldiers as Russians to HRW.

Russia has supplied what are officially described as military instructors to Mali, which has been battling a brutal jihadist conflict since 2012. The United States, France and others say the instructors are operatives from the Russian private security firm Wagner.

Wane told the Security Council that MINUSMA has opened 17 investigations into allegations of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, extrajudicial arrests and killings, mistreatment and forced disappearances in central Mali since the beginning of this year.

Pointing to the rise in reported rights abuses, Richard Mills, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, told the Council it was “exactly why the United States continues to warn countries against partnering with the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group.”

Wane said he welcomed word from Mali that a military tribunal had opened an investigation into the events in Moura. MINUSMA also welcomed the development in a separate statement.

However, he added, “it is imperative that the Malian authorities extend the necessary cooperation for MINUSMA to have access to the site of the alleged violations, in line with its mandate.”

On Wednesday, independent UN human rights expert Alioune Tine urged an independent and impartial investigation into the events.

In a statement, he called on the Malian authorities to allow the UN’s MINUSMA force to perform the investigation.

“The findings must be made public and the alleged perpetrators brought to justice,” Tine added.

Swathes of Mali lie outside of government control due to the jihadist conflict, which has spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes.

Mali’s under-equipped army has often been accused of committing abuses.

The country’s ruling junta, which seized power in a military coup in 2020, routinely defends the rights record of the armed forces.

Mali Says 203 Killed In Military Operation In Centre

A protester holds a flag of Mali during a demonstration to support Mali on Obelisk Plazza in Dakar, on January 28, 2022. SEYLLOU / AFP
A protester holds a flag of Mali during a demonstration to support Mali on Obelisk Plazza in Dakar, on January 28, 2022.
SEYLLOU / AFP

 

 

Mali’s army said Friday that it had killed 203 combatants in an operation in the centre of Sahel state, an apparent uptick in violence in the conflict-torn country.

The army said the March 23-31 military operation took place in Sahel’s Moura area — which it termed a “terrorist fiefdom”.

Soldiers killed 203 militants, arrested 51 people and seized large quantities of weapons, according to the army’s statement.

The announcement comes as numerous social media reports in Mali this week alleged that dozens of people, including civilians, had been killed in Moura.

AFP was unable to verify the army’s claimed death toll or the social media reports.

Poor access to Mali’s conflict areas and a relative lack of independent information sources means that figures provided by either the government or armed groups are difficult to confirm.

An impoverished nation of around 21 million people, Mali has struggled to contain a jihadist insurgency that emerged in 2012, before spreading to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Vast swathes of the country are myriad rebel groups and militias, and thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict.

Mali’s under-equipped army has also often been accused of committing abuses during the conflict.

According to a report seen by AFP, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently warned the UN Security Council that Mali’s counter-terrorism efforts had “disastrous consequences for the civilian population”.

In its statement Friday, Mali’s army said it was guided by human rights and international law, and called for “restraint against defamatory speculations”.

The country has seen an apparent uptick in violence in recent weeks. The UN said on Friday that thousands of people fleeing fighting in Mali have arrived in Niger.

A day earlier, the UN peacekeeping mission, known as Minusma, said that security had “deteriorated considerably” in the border area with Burkina Faso and Niger.