Human Rights Watch accuses suspected Malian and Russian soldiers of executing 300 civilians in March

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In a report released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said Malian soldiers linked to foreign mercenaries summarily executed 300 civilians in late March in a region of central Mali. These facts are the “worst episode of atrocities” committed since violence erupted in the country in 2012, says the NGO.

Malian soldiers linked to Russian foreign fighters denounced the summary execution of 300 civilians, some of whom were suspected of being jihadists, at the end of March in a central region of the country, denounced by Human Rights Watch.

In a report published on Tuesday, April 5, the NGO described a massacre that took place over several days between 27 and 31 March in Mora locality, between Mopti and Djenni, in an area that is one of the main centers of violence in the Sahel.

These facts are the “worst episode of atrocities” committed since the violence erupted in Mali in 2012, says the organization, which cited 27 people with knowledge of the events, including 19 survivors and witnesses.

‘Defamatory speculation’, according to the junta

No reaction to this report was initially obtained from the military-dominated authorities who seized power by force in 2020.

With the proliferation of messages on social media, they gave a completely different account of the events of Mora Friday, as they talked about an operation that allowed the killing of 203 members of “armed terrorist groups” and the arrest of 51 others. They scored an error against “defamatory speculations”.

But the UN mission in Mali, the United States, the European Union and France have expressed concern about the reports from Mora.

“The Malian government should open an urgent and impartial investigation into these mass killings, including the role of foreign soldiers,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel region director at Human Rights Watch. She emphasized that for the credibility of these investigations, the authorities must get help from the African Union and the United Nations.

Human Rights Watch said that the events in Mora began on March 27 with the arrival of soldiers by helicopter to a livestock fair. It was alleged that the soldiers then exchanged fire with about thirty Islamic militants who were in the crowd; Several Islamists, a few civilians, and two foreign soldiers were reportedly killed.

Mora is described as a former locality that, like many other areas in Mali, is under the control of groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Human Rights Watch quoted eyewitnesses as saying that reinforcements transported by helicopters had captured Mora, and Malian and foreign soldiers.

Foreigners are equal to Russians because they do not speak French and there has been a lot of talk in the media, including from the authorities, about the arrival of Russian soldiers in recent months to help fight the jihadists.

Mass graves and cremated bodies

Soldiers reportedly combed the area and “executed” a number of people and arrested hundreds more. In the following days, they allegedly shot and executed dozens of captives in small groups, perhaps on the basis of their dress or because they wore beards according to rules established by the jihadists, or because of their ethnicity.

According to Human Rights Watch, the “vast majority” of the men executed were Fulani, a group of which the jihadists largely recruited.

The NGO recalls that “intentional killing or ill-treatment of an individual while in custody is a war crime.”

Human Rights Watch said that civilians were forced to dig mass graves before their execution and some remains were burned beyond recognition.

with AFP

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