A French airstrike killed 19 civilians wedding guests in Mali




Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – From above, the photos show a charred plot of land in the middle of the desert and a mass grave covered with dry tree branches, where people living around Ponte, a village in central Mali, said that those killed by French air strikes were buried. On the floor were pictures of slippers strewn about; An empty jacket with one arm extended; A deformed metal teapot and bits of shrapnel – some marked with serial numbers – along with bright yellow guide marks and metal rulers.

This is the photographic evidence contained in a just released report 36-page report From the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as Minosma, Who confirmed this week that the French forces held a wedding on January 3, where 100 people celebrated, killing 22 people – 19 of them died at the site, all of them males. The investigation found that three of the dead were suspected of belonging to a militant Islamic group operating in the area called Katiba Masina, and that three had died on their way to seek medical help.

MINUSMA is mandated by the United Nations Security Council to protect civilians in the ongoing conflict in Mali, among other roles, and the peacekeeping mission is bound by a Security Council resolution to investigate and document allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed throughout Mali. This includes all violations related to international forces, including French forces Barkhane processAnd MINUSMA peacekeepers and G5-Sahel as well as patriotic forces during cross-border military operations. It is assumed that all violations will be documented and publicized in the quarterly reports of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. However, the release of this new report shortly after its publication is unusual for the United Nations, especially as it relates directly to France, a permanent member of the Security Council.

The report, which recommended that “the French and financial authorities study in depth the measures and precautions they take in preparation for such strikes,” said: “The majority of those injured in the raid are civilians protected by international humanitarian law from such attacks.” “Conduct investigations into possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights” and compensate victims.

The French Ministry of the Armed Forces, which is responsible for the Barkhane Campaign, a 5,000-strong counterinsurgency campaign in the Sahel region based in Chad, maintains that the airstrike targeted only militants. Moreover, the French raised concerns about the “methodology” and findings of the Minusma report and its use of domestic witness testimony that was “unverifiable,” according to statement On the ministry’s website, which was released on the same day the report was published.

“The only tangible sources on which this report is based come from local testimonies,” the statement said. “They are never copied, and witnesses are never identified as the circumstances were taken under these testimonies. Therefore it is impossible to distinguish between reliable sources, potential terrorist sympathizers and individuals under the influence (including a threat) of jihadist groups.” She added that the bombing respects the laws of armed conflict.

The airstrikes that occurred on January 3 over a period of nearly three months were investigated by MINUSMA’s Human Rights Protection Department. The team consists of 15 experts from the department and two criminal police officers from the Mission, who visited the site in late February. The report states that the team conducted 115 interviews with individuals, spoke with at least 200 others in groups, and analyzed 150 publications, official statements, official statements and photographic evidence.

Among those interviewed were seven male civilians injured in the attack on the village, and its residents are Fulani, an ethnic and pastoral group that lives throughout the Sahel region. The wedding was revealed in a semi-woodland area, under a winding stretch of red cliffs that form part of the beautiful Mopti landscape that once attracted thousands of foreign tourists. The Fulani complained about ethnic profiling in counterterrorism operations in the Sahel region, especially because they were targeted by Malian security forces; And the Dozo ethnic militia Accused To commit widespread massacres against the Fulani in central Mali.

Report January 6 before Sahelien.com“There were no women among the victims, this is an area controlled by jihadists. They don’t allow men to gather with women at weddings. So a group of women celebrated 300 meters away. The villagers respect the jihadists’ instructions,” a regional news website independent of a villager in Ponte said of the French attack. To avoid reprisals, only a group of men and teenagers were targeted, but the groom is still alive. “

The strike angered villagers and sparked calls from local and international groups to conduct investigations, including from a local representative who works for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the NGO Human Rights Watch.

“The United Nations investigation into the French air raid on Ponte raises serious concerns that the attack was unlawfully disproportionate – and that the civilian casualties, which were significant and could have been much higher, exceeded the military gains of the attack,” Jonathan Bidenault, said Human Rights Watch researcher email to PassBlue.

The report stressed the increasing number of terrorist attacks attributed to jihadist groups such as the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims and the Islamic State Organization in the Greater Sahel region near Doentza, where Ponte is located, which targeted MINUSMA forces and killed Malian and French forces at the end of last year. The French bombings in Ponte were part of a joint counterterrorism operation called Eclipse, carried out from January 2 to 20 by Barkhane, G5 Sahel forces and the Malian army. January 3 bombing The days have come After the killing of five French soldiers in Mali.

The results of the UN investigation were released just days later Media reports Malian officials accused French forces of killing six civilians in an air strike in Gao, northeastern Mali. The alleged and confirmed attacks occurred this year by France following the release of a 336-page report before The United Nations International Commission of Inquiry, Documenting the violations committed by all parties to the conflict in Mali, since it began in 2012. That is when jihadist groups allied with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb joined forces with local Tuareg groups to occupy cities in northern Mali, such as Timbuktu.

The commission, which was mandated under the 2015 Algiers Peace Agreement for Mali, documented violations committed by all actors in the conflict and found that the Malian army had committed widespread human rights violations and that French forces had killed civilians in airstrikes. The report also raised questions about the participation of French forces in counterterrorism operations with Malian forces, which were accused of committing grave human rights violations and French cooperation with armed militias accused of committing violations such as child recruitment.

The committee’s report was submitted in confidence to the 15-member Security Council in mid-December 2020 and released a few months later. But the council has yet to take action on the recommendations, such as establishing a court, with some council members saying it is awaiting a response from the Malian government, which UN investigators have described as major human rights violators. Apparently, only one country on the council, an elected member, raised the issue this year regarding accountability for the report’s findings.

While Mr. Mohamed Saleh Alnadhif, President of MINUSMA, welcomed the report, the mission and other important global bodies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been largely silent about the number of civilian casualties alleged to have originated from the French. Air strikes in Mali over many years.

France refused to answer questions related to the report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the French army’s cooperation with Malian armed groups in 2017 and 2018 and the nature of its joint operations with Malian forces, particularly during Operation Serval in 2013. In February, when Basle Bleu requested the Ministry of Forces Whether they keep records of civilians killed during air strikes in the Sahel region, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Armed Forces wrote in an email:

Although such incidents are rare, every civilian victim is informed of the International Committee of the Red Cross, but we are not in a position to give you more information about this. In order to ensure transparency, we leave it to the recognized international authorities to announce the number of civilian casualties. “

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