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HRW Slams Surge in Killings of Civilians in Mali


FILE - Militants of the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad stand on a dune in the deserted area of the Meneka region in Mali during an anti-jihadist patrol, Feb. 4, 2018.

Malian soldiers and jihadists have carried out a wave of summary executions since December in the conflict-torn Sahel state, says Human Rights Watch, which is urging the government to investigate.

A report due to be published Wednesday said at least 107 civilians – including traders, village chiefs and children – had been killed recently in central and southwestern Mali since December.

Most of the victims were summarily executed, according to the report seen by AFP, which is based on the testimony of 49 people.

Members of the security forces were linked to at least 71 civilian deaths over the period, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, while jihadists were linked to 36.

The numbers constituted a "dramatic spike,” said HRW Sahel director Corinne Dufka.

"This complete disregard for human life, which includes apparent war crimes, should be investigated and those found to be implicated appropriately punished," she added.

Mali, an impoverished nation of 21 million people, has over the past decade been wracked by Islamist violence. Vast swaths of the country are in thrall to myriad rebel groups and militias.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes.

Mali's under-equipped army has also often been accused of committing abuses during the brutal conflict.

But the army-dominated interim government, installed after a 2020 military coup, regularly rejects such accusations.

Among other incidents, the HRW report cited one in central Mali in January in which soldiers allegedly killed five civilians.

A witness told the rights group that "white soldiers" as well as Malian troops had been involved.

The report did not mention the identity of the white soldiers. However, France, the United States and others say that Russian private security firm Wagner has deployed hundreds of fighters to Mali.

Mali's government has repeatedly denied the claims.

HRW said the government had told the rights group that the gendarmes had opened investigations into two alleged incidents of military abuses mentioned in the report.

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