‘Mali preventing access to killings site’

The United Nations (UN) has expressed concern that Malian authorities have denied its human rights investigators access to a village where hundreds of people were killed.

“We are extremely concerned that Malian authorities have still not granted UN human rights investigators access”, a statement by the UN Human Rights Office said.

It says “time is of essence to ensure accountability and prompt, effective justice for victims”, noting that it first sought access to the site of the killings on April1.

Malian troops and their Russian collaborators were accused of carrying out a massacre of civilians during an operation against militants last month.

At least 300 people were believed to have been executed during the 27-31 March raid in the village of Moura, which is in Mali’s central Mopti region.

The killings sparked calls by the Human Rights Watch, the US, the European Union and the UN for an independent investigation into the matter.

The Malian army insisted that those killed were jihadist fighters and the allegation of a massacre was an attempt to tarnish its image.

A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said this had been a successful operation by Mali’s army alone.

The Mali junta denied that mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group were helping it fight the insurgents.

The country has been battling a decade-long insurgency that has affected millions of people, and has also engulfed other countries in the region.

Harrowing accounts were emerging of Malian troops and suspected Russian mercenaries allegedly executing about 300 people in central Mali.

Residents told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the killings took place during an operation against militant Islamists for over four days in late March.

Detained men were ordered to walk in groups of up to 10before being executed, HRW said.

“I lived in terror, each minute, each second thinking it would be my turn to be taken away and executed. Even after being told to go, I feared it was a trap,” one man who witnessed some executions was quoted as saying.

“As I walked away, slowly, I held my hand on my chest, holding my breath, and waiting for a bullet to pass through my body,” he added.

Mali’s military admitted that it had killed more than 200 militants in a “large-scale” assault on the “terrorist fief” of Moura. -BBC

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