At least 50 civilians were killed and more than 500 were arrested during a military operation conducted by Mali’s army and “foreign troops” on April 19, the United Nations has said.
The alleged massacre took place on market day in Hombori municipality, in the central region of Douentza, after a Mali military convoy hit an improvised explosive device, the UN said in a report on Wednesday.
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“At least 50 civilians [including a woman and a child] were killed and more than 500 others arrested, the UN’s peacekeeping mission MINUSMA said in a quarterly report on human rights violations between April and June.
The report did not specify who the foreign fighters were. Mali’s military spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The UN has repeatedly accused Malian soldiers of summarily executing civilians and suspected fighters during the course of their decade-long fight against groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).
The military has in some cases acknowledged that its forces were implicated in executions and other abuses, but few soldiers have faced criminal charges.
Mali’s military government, 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 has been a key factor in France’s decision to withdraw its troops from Mali – a former colony that it has supported in a decade-long fight against an armed group rebellion that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The last French soldier in Mali under the long-running Barkhane mission left the country on August 15.
The MINUSMA report said 96 civilians were killed during operations by Malian security forces between April 1 and June 30, while seven disappeared and 19 were injured.
A report by experts to the UN, seen by the AFP news agency in early August, said “white-skinned soldiers” accompanied Malian soldiers at the scene of killings in March in the Segou region near the Mauritanian border, in which 33 civilians died.
In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said about 300 people, most of them ethnic Fulanis, were killed in Moura in central Mali in March by Malian forces “or associated foreign fighters” – a veiled reference to suspected Russian operatives.
Mali’s army said that it killed 203 “militants” in Moura.