Mali accuses France of spying after graves video

Mali has accused the French army of “spying” after it used a drone to film footage, which purported to show soldiers burying bodies near a military base that was recently returned by France.

The military-dominated government in Mali said the images were false, and intended to accuse the Malian military of killing civilians.

France released the drone footage earlier this month, saying it showed Russian mercenaries – working for the Malian government – of burying bodies in the sand near the base at Gossi.

France has denied that its soldiers were involved in a massacre at the site, and says it’s a Russian-backed attempt to discredit its military.

Thousands of French troops have been fighting Islamist militants in Mali for nearly a decade.

France decided to withdraw them after disagreements with the military rulers who seized power in a coup last year.

President-elect of France, Emmanuel Macron, has pulled French forces out of the West African nation of Mali, where they have been fighting Islamist militants since 2013.

There were 5,000 French troops in Mali and surrounding countries, fighting groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

But over the past eight years, the French presence has become increasingly unpopular with Mali’s government and its public.

Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda have decided to focus on the Sahel region of Africa after suffering setbacks in the Middle East.

The Sahel is a strip of semi-arid land beneath the Sahara Desert that stretches across the continent from east to west. It includes parts of Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

IS and al-Qaeda’s JNIM are both active in the Sahel region where they compete for power.

Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and al-Qaeda’s affiliate, called Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), have carried out terror attacks in the region which have killed several thousand people, displaced tens of thousands of others and caused thousands of schools to close.

There are two other jihadist groups active in the Sahel: Ansaroul Islam and Boko Haram.

In April 2022, jihadists attacked three military bases in central Mali and one in Burkina Faso, killing six soldiers,

In 2013, France sent 5,000 troops to Mali at the government’s behest as it was facing an armed rebellion. -BBC

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