Bamako – Nineteen “terrorists” and three armed groups have been eliminated by Malian forces in operations against jihadists since March 22, the military said in a statement.
It announced the “neutralisation of four terrorists in the Niono zone” in the centre of the country, as well as the elimination of “three armed terrorist groups” in the Baoule forest and “15 terrorists” in the Manfoune, Vanekui and Mandiakui sectors.
AFP was not able to verify the death toll given by the Malian army.
Military communications director Colonel Souleymane Dembele did not respond to a question on possible military losses during the operations mentioned in the statement.
He did say however that eight soldiers had been killed in Moura in “fighting on the outskirts and… around the city”.
The latest toll is in addition to 203 fighters the military said it had killed in a “large-scale” operation in the Moura region in March.
Witnesses interviewed by media and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have spoken of a large-scale massacre of civilians in Moura. HRW has said 300 were killed by Malian soldiers and foreign fighters.
Ruled by a military junta since August 2020, Mali has been in turmoil since 2012.
Jihadist attacks have spread from the north to the centre of the country and into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, says nearly 600 civilians were killed in 2021 in violence blamed mainly on jihadist groups, but also on vigilante groups and the armed forces.
Mali’s military judiciary on Wednesday announced the opening of an investigation into last month’s events at Moura.
The United Nations’ envoy for Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, on Thursday voiced support for that announcement but called on the authorities to let the UN enter the remote area.
An alliance of campaign groups from Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger called the Citizens’ Coalition for the Sahel has called for an independent inquiry, “so that light will be fully shed on the serious violations of human rights by the Malian armed forces, notably at Moura.”
“The drama in Moura is just the latest in a series of alleged crimes against civilians by various actors” in the three countries, it said.
Picture: Getty Images