The terms used by Human Rights Watch (HRW) are unambiguous: it is the “worst atrocity in Mali since the beginning of the conflict, a decade ago”. At the end of March, the Malian armed forces, supported by Russian mercenaries from the Wagner company, are suspected of having executed “nearly 300 civilians”among which were hidden jihadist fighters.
The massacre took place in Moura, the epicenter of intercommunity violence that has plagued Mali for several years. The victims, most often, were killed by a bullet in the head, in small groups, specifies HRW, which cites direct witnesses. This investigation report, published on Tuesday April 5, comes to sweep away the argumentation of the Malian army, which affirmed, Friday 1er april having killed “203 fighters” of “armed terrorist groups” during an operation carried out at the end of March, and scrupulously monitor the “respect for human rights” and ” IHL (…) in the conduct of operations.
In its investigation, Human Rights Watch traces the gruesome course of events. On Sunday March 27, soldiers landed in helicopters and engaged in combat with jihadists present in the cattle market. This locality, populated in particular by families of Fulani herders, is under the control of men from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who extort the villagers and force them to respect the rules of Sharia.
After a few minutes of violent exchanges of fire, the soldiers took over. Several hundred men were arrested: a few jihadist fighters, but also a large number of villagers, traders from Moura and the surrounding area, who had come to sell their livestock at the Sunday market. All are taken to a nearby wasteland, forced to lie down in the sun. According to witnesses quoted by HRW, a hundred Russian mercenaries from Wagner would have taken part in the operations. During the next four days, according to the NGO, Wagner’s mercenaries and the soldiers of the Malian army will execute in small groups nearly 300 men, methodically targeting individuals belonging to the Fulani minority, suspected by Bamako of collectively supporting jihadist groups in the region.
Paris, which is withdrawing its troops from Mali, said to itself “concerned by reports of massive abuses in the village of Moura”while the UN mission in Mali admitted having been informed of “confrontations” between the Malian army and jihadist groups, and said she was “very concerned about the allegations of violence” against civilians.