Al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali say they have captured at least one Russian mercenary from the Wagner Group, a private military company with alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Extremists linked to al-Qaida say in a statement they have abducted at least one Russian mercenary, who they describe as a “soldier of Russian Wagner forces.”
An Arabic version of the group's statement claimed they abducted one Russian fighter, who they called a "criminal," while the French version said they had taken more than one.
The statement also claims that Wagner forces took part in an operation in Moura, Mali, which it says killed “hundreds of innocents.”
Several countries have accused Mali’s military government of working with forces from the Wagner Group, a shadowy private company that has provided Russian mercenaries to several countries, including Libya, Syria and the Central African Republic.
The Malian government denies any links with the Wagner Group, saying it only works with official “Russian trainers.”
The Moura military operation mentioned in the extremists’ statement was the subject of a report by Human Rights Watch.
The report quoted witnesses who said “white soldiers” working with the Malian army killed 300 civilian men, some of them suspected Islamist fighters, during a five-day operation.
On Saturday, the French army released drone surveillance video, which they say shows mercenaries burying bodies in the sand near Gossi, Mali, where the French army withdrew from a military base last week.
Similar video circulated on Twitter two days earlier and accused French forces of killing the people seen in the video.
Speaking to AFP, the French military said the mercenaries staged the mass grave to tarnish the image of France.