Bamako – The junta in Mali on Friday rejected “biased” UN allegations of a massacre of civilians by the military in April.
At least 50 civilians were killed and hundreds arrested in central Mali during an operation by the army and “foreign” personnel, the UN’s peacekeeping mission said in a report published Wednesday.
“The allegations are very often biased, not cross-checked… not based on any tangible evidence and often made under the threat of terrorist groups,” the foreign ministry wrote in its reaction posted on social media.
The incident happened on April 19 when Malian troops “accompanied by foreign military personnel” carried out a sweep in Hombori after one of their convoys was attacked by a roadside bomb, according to the UN’s peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.
“At least 50 civilians (including a woman and a child) were killed and more than 500 others arrested,” it said in a quarterly report on violence and rights abuses.
The report did not specify who the foreign fighters were.
ALSO READ | Tens of thousands flee Mali violence
But several sources at the time said a “Russian advisor” deployed with the Malian forces had been killed in the roadside blast.
Mali’s ruling junta, which has been in power since 2020, has brought in Russian operatives it describes as military trainers.
Western countries describe them as mercenaries from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group.
Their presence was a key factor in France’s decision to withdraw its troops from Mali — a former colony it has supported in a decade-long fight against a jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands.
The last French soldier in Mali under the long-running Barkhane anti-jihadist mission left the country on August 15.
The Malian army on April 22 said it had conducted a major security sweep in the Hombori area after the attack three days earlier. It said it had killed 18 “attackers” and detained 611 people.
Most were freed, but among a few dozen kept in detention, two died from torture, MINUSMA said.
On April 24, a soldier appeared to have “summarily killed” 20 other detainees at the Malian army camp in Hombori, the peacekeeping force said.