“I was talking to someone and the next minute he was called to death” – Liberation

From 27 to 31 March Malian and Russian soldiers executed hundreds of unarmed people in a village in central Mali. Liberation met a witness who was detained for several days and forced to retrieve the bodies.

Shots ring, Asaan swings. He looks at the TV mounted on the wall. German policemen and bandits in leather jackets exchange gunfire on a motorway in an afternoon television series. Among those in which the villains collapse as they scream in final theatrical gestures. This imaginative violence draws a nervous smile from him. It must have seemed absurd to him because it is different from the horror of real assassination: tacky, ugly, with corpses bent without a sigh under the bullets. He escaped like a summary execution.

The young man, who has fallen on a soft sofa in a house on the outskirts of Bamako, is one of the first survivors of the attack on the village of Mora, central Mali, to reach the capital. Asaan is not his real first name. Edited to protect his identity. According to the Malian Army,“Large Air-Ground Opportunity Operation” From 27 to 31 March, in Mora, it would enable neutralization “203 Terrorists”. According to human rights organizations, this operation would have resulted in at least 300 casualties, according to Human Rights Watch, the vast majority of unarmed civilians. It took Asani a few days in the car to find shelter away from the carnage. Friends ran away. On that day, six of them were sitting around him, on sofas or with their backs leaning against the wall, most of them from Mora. They listen intently to the story of the attack on their village, which unfolds like a long catharsis.

He said the attack began on Sunday, March 27, at 11:20 a.m. Asani, from a nearby village, was in Mora dropping off merchants who had come to sell their wares at the Sunday fair, when he saw two helicopters flying over the market shooting terrified fugitives. Take refuge in a grocery store. One of the helicopters shot down white soldiers east of the village, and the second brought them down to the west. He says. They were armed to the teeth, magazines everywhere. Some were wearing helmets, bags, and camouflage clothing. It was these soldiers who had caused the most damage during the five days. Everyone who tried to save himself was killed. Those who fell did not have weapons in their hands. They were innocent.”

Hours pass by, corpses pile up

Assane was quickly captured. I was part of the first wave of arrests. The white soldiers started herding the people towards the river south of the village. There were a lot of us, 600 to 1,000 people. They put us face down and we stayed like that, in the sand, in the bright sun, until about 6pm. He darkens his face and stares at the wall. Small audience becomes more attentive. Then the soldiers asked us to stand up, and then they started pointing at some of the captives saying, “He’s a jihadist,” and they killed him. Notice the faces, the beard, and the pants [les jihadistes obligent les hommes à porter des pantalons coupés, ndlr] and killed. They spent the night taking people from us to execute.”

Asan twists a chipped ring between his fingers, sliding it from little finger to ring finger in a mechanical gesture. resume: “It was a white man with a stick who came to take people. He would hit people on the heads: “You over there, get up!” until he got the desired number. After that, they brought them behind a house under construction, a few meters away, where a Malian soldier and another white soldier stood. They were the ones who were executed. They didn’t even take the time to handcuff or blindfold, they just killed, some while they were still walking. One shot and that’s it.”

Behind this house under construction, hours pass and corpses pile up. On Monday and Tuesday, new helicopters land and more Malian soldiers are disembarked. They comb the village. “Alfama [Forces armées maliennes] They raided from morning until evening and brought in new prisoners. They categorized them into two groups: suspected terrorists and potential collaborators. They were quickly killing people from the first group.” Asan understands that two sites other than his have been established in the east and west of the village. Sometimes the ringing of gunshots is heard from the other side.

“At first, I was very afraid, Asan breathes. I was talking to someone and the next minute he was called to execution. I thought my turn would come. But the hours turned into days and the fear disappeared.” Even the resignation frees him from the fear of questioning his jailers. Then an interpreter confirms what Asani suspected. Those “white soldiers” who kill his friends speak Russian. Since the beginning of the year, Russian soldiers have been working alongside the Alfama. Europe claims that they are mercenaries belonging to the private security company Wagner. Bamako is only talking “Russian coaches” They came to the aid of the Malian army.

Five days of ordeal

In Mora, several times in the day and during the night, detainees are chosen for execution. Asan does not sleep. I saw people I knew well, who had nothing to do with the jihadists, but even hated them, being killed in front of my eyes. Even a 10-year-old was killed.” The soldiers hardly provide food and drink to the detainees. Twice, Asani received the order to return the cigarettes to the group. The temperature exceeded 40 ° C, the heads turned and the first corpses began to decompose in the sun. The smell is toxic. Among the detainees, the soldiers form two teams. One is responsible for digging a hole, and the other is responsible for picking up the corpses to throw there. Asan carries chariots, with about twenty companions. “The bodies were swollen and disfigured and could only be recognized by their clothes.” From Wednesday to Thursday, he and his fellow prisoners collected 180 bodies. “We were so exhausted that the army had to replace us.”

Thursday morning, salvation finally arrived. “Those who want to live, lay down their arms. If you want to die like those in the pit, go back to the jihadists and we will come and kill you again.” He warns a money soldier before boarding the helicopter. After five days of ordeal that left them dehydrated and exhausted, Asani and the survivors scour the village in search of their relatives. They find scattered bodies and bury them in individual graves they hastily dug. Asan then leaves Mora with his mother, who is also a captive. On the way, they discovered and buried another 21 people, according to Asani’s count.

it’s time to pray. Asaan’s friends kneel on the living room rug. He wants to go to the authorities. “Let the rank and file cease the killing of innocents, Shout. They made a lot of widows and orphans. The jihadists threaten us and order us to grow beards and cut our clothes. After that, come the Fama, who is supposed to protect us, and kill us. It only adds instability to Mali.” A week has passed since the attack. Before leaving the salon for breakfast, Asani receives a message. New bodies were discovered in Mora.

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