300 killed by Mali’s army and foreigners, says rights group

300 killed by Mali’s army and foreigners, says rights group

FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2020 file photo, Col. Assimi Goita meets with a high-level delegation from the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, at the Ministry of Defense in Bamako, Mali. Mali's army and foreign soldiers suspected to be Russian recently killed an estimated 300 men — some of them suspected Islamic extremist fighters but most civilians — in Moura in central Mali, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday April 5, 2022. (AP Photo, File)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Mali’s army and foreign soldiers suspected to be Russian recently killed an estimated 300 men — some of them suspected Islamic extremist fighters but most civilians — in Moura in central Mali, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

It is the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s 10-year armed conflict against Islamic extremists, according to the rights group which said it interviewed several witnesses about the killings.

Russian fighters are believed to have shot dead most of those killed in Moura in late March, according to witnesses who identified the killers as white soldiers who did not speak French. Several hundred Russian mercenaries have been deployed in Mali to help fight the extremist rebels, the U.S. military confirmed in January.

In the Moura incident, Malian army troops and foreign soldiers in late March rounded up several hundred men and shot dead about 300 of them, burying many in mass graves and burning others, according to Human Rights Watch.

Mali’s defense ministry reported a similar incident, saying that in the last week of March it had killed 203 “terrorists” and arrested 51 others, acting on intelligence that armed extremists were meeting in Moura.

“Abuses by armed Islamist groups is no justification at all for the military’s deliberate slaughter of people in custody,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch. “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.”

Most of those killed in Moura were from the Peul ethnic group, according to the rights group. Moura had been largely controlled by extremists linked to al-Qaida who taxed villagers and imposed strict Shariah law, according to residents.

“The Malian government should urgently and impartially investigate these mass killings, including the role of foreign soldiers,” Dufka said. “For such investigations to be sufficiently independent and credible, the authorities should seek assistance from the African Union and the United Nations.”

In its investigation of the killings in Moura, Human Rights Watch said its researchers spoke with 27 people including witnesses, traders, community leaders, foreign diplomats and security analysts.

Moura, a town of about 10,000 residents in the Djenné administrative area of central Mali, has since 2015 been at the center of the conflict with extremist rebels and has seen widespread violence, abuses by all sides and the displacement of large numbers of civilians.

The killings in Moura are part of a spike in violence in recent months by extremists linked.

Source: AP news

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