Mali probes alleged massacre by Russian fighters

The military authorities in Mali say they have opened an investigation into an alleged massacre of civilians by Malian troops and foreign fighters.

Mali’s army said last Friday that it had killed more than 200 Islamist militants during 10 days of fighting in the central Moura region.

But the United States, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have called for an independent investigation into reports that hundreds of civilians were killed by government troops and Russian mercenaries known as the Wagner group.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in Mali’s 10-year conflict with Islamist militants.

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 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.

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

On Tuesday, Germany joined the US, France and the European Union to call for an independent investigation, involving the UN mission in the country, into what happened in the village of Moura, which is in Mali’s central Mopti region.

In its statement, HRW said there had been a “deliberate slaughter” of people detained.

“The Malian government is responsible for this atrocity, the worst in Mali in a decade, whether carried about by Malian forces or associated foreign soldiers.”

HRW described Moura as being under the “quasi-control” of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). -BBC

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