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Africa

Controversy erupts over the deaths of alleged terrorists in Mali

media Malian soldiers in a truck, February 2017. AFP/Thomas Coex

In Mali, an investigation has been launched into the controversial killing of 14 people in Dioura, in the central Mopti region last Friday. There are two contradictory versions of who these people were and how they died.

On Friday, the Malian army said that 14 people described as alleged terrorists were killed while trying to escape. They had been arrested the day before in the town of Dioura in possession of weapons, according to the military. However, the official version was contested by their next of kin and local sources who claim they were summarily executed.

Military blunder?

Seydou Bah, mayor of Nampala, told RFI that these people were all Nampala contituents who lived in a campsite near Dioura. He said he knew who the victims were thanks to the testimonies of women and children who had fled the scene when the army arrested ogther family members. He believes it was a military blunder.

"It's not the first time we've confronted such a military blunder. They have to stop", he says. "The authorities should take this problem seriously and investigate so that such abuses don't happen again, because they cause defiance between the military and the population they're supposed to protect."

Military inquiry

Defense minister Tiena Coulibaly responded by assuring people that a military investigation is underway to establish what happened.

"I pledge that we will follow the conclusions of the investigation, which means that if indeed a crime was committed, the perpetrators will be treated as criminals and brought to justice" he told RFI.

But the minister also warned that some people  were constantly criticising the army despite its "hard work fighting terrorism". "Our army protects each and every Malian citizen" he stressed.

Recurring accusations of abuses

And yet, it is not the first time local and international NGOs have accused the army of abuse.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch called for investigations into the deaths of 27 men, all allegedly killed in detention between February and April of this year during the counter-terrorist Dambe operation still underway in Central Mali.

"In light of the failure of the military to hold accountable soldiers implicated in past abuses, an independent Justice Ministry investigation for the current spate of abuses is crucial", Human Rights Watch wrote.

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