May 29, 2024

Malian and foreign military personnel kill over 500 people during military operations in Moura

Dennis Keita in Mali

An intelligence-gathering report by the UN human rights office says there are strong indications that Malian troops and foreign soldiers killed more than 500 people in the village of Moura during a five-day military operation – most of them executed in March 2022 in the Mopti region of central Mali.

These are extremely disturbing findings,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk. “Summary executions, rape and torture during armed conflict amount to war crimes and could, depending on the circumstances, amount to crimes against humanity.”

The report is the result of an extensive human rights fact-finding mission conducted by UN staff in Mali over several months. Malian authorities rejected the requests of the group to enter the town of Moura.

The report is based on interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as forensics and other data sources such as satellite images.

The report tells how the events in Moura progressed from day to day. The operation, which officials describe as a counter-terrorism military operation against al-Qaeda-linked group Katiba Macina, began on March 27, 2022, a busy weekly market day in Moura.

Witnesses said a military helicopter flew over the village and opened fire on people, while four helicopters landed and troops left the country. Soldiers surrounded people in the middle of the village and randomly shot fleeing entrepreneurs. Some Katiba Macina fighters from the crowd fired at the troops. At least 20 civilians and a dozen alleged Katiba Macina members were killed.

According to the report, at least 500 people will be executed in the next four days. The investigative team obtained extensive personal information, including the names of at least 238 victims. Witnesses reported seeing “armed white men” working alongside Malian troops who spoke an unknown language and sometimes appeared to be overseeing operations.

According to witnesses, Malian soldiers were rotated in and out of Moura every day, but the foreigners remained in place during the operation. The day after the attack, soldiers began going from house to house looking for “suspected terrorists”, apparently selecting and executing people with long beards, people wearing ankle-length trousers or a badge on their shoulders – interpreted as the badge they usually wore. . weapons and even those who showed only signs of fear.

Witnesses told the investigative team that soldiers took a group of men gathered in the southeast of the village and shot them in the head, back or chest, and threw their bodies into a ditch.

They reported that Malian armed forces and “armed white men” also executed those who resisted or tried to escape and were thrown into a ditch. At least 58 women and girls were raped or suffered other sexual violence. In one shocking incident, soldiers allegedly brought garbage from the house, placed it under trees in the garden, and in turn raped the women who were forced there.

Dozens more people were arrested. Some prisoners were tortured and otherwise ill-treated during interrogation and detention at the National Security Agency (ANSE) in Mouras, Sévaré state and the capital, Bamako.

One victim said he and other prisoners were beaten, punched and kicked in the head as soldiers called them jihadists and accused them of killing their brothers and destroying the country. Another victim described how soldiers took him to state security facilities, where he was tortured and electrocuted for hours during interrogation.

Malian authorities announced the launch of an investigation shortly after the attack, but more than a year later and awaiting the final result of the investigation, their armed forces still deny the perpetrators of the abuses. Türk emphasized that the investigation of reports of such serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law must be carried out independently, impartially and transparently in order to prosecute.

“It is vital that Malian authorities take all necessary steps to ensure that Malian forces engaged in any military and law enforcement operations, including foreign military personnel under their command or control, fully respect the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” Türk said.