Central Mali Deaths: What We Know
Faizan Hashmi 24 days ago Wed 31st March 2021 | 12:24 AM
A United Nations report released on Tuesday said a French air strike in central Mali in January killed 19 civilians, prompting a strong denial from France
Bamako, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 30th Mar, 2021 ) :A United Nations report released on Tuesday said a French air strike in central Mali in January killed 19 civilians, prompting a strong denial from France.
France's military maintains that it struck jihadists, and has cast doubt on the UN report.
Here's what we know of the events: - What happened in Bounti? - An air strike took place near the village of Bounti on January 3 in war-torn central Malian, in circumstances that weren't immediately clear.
An association defending the Fulani ethnic group also published the Names of 18 people that it said were killed.
On Tuesday, the UN appeared to confirm these accounts.
There were five armed men among the revellers, whom the UN said were likely members of the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group Katiba Serma.
An air attack killed several dozen jihadists in a planned and targeted operation, the French military said at the time, adding that it had monitored the group for several days.
France's defence ministry stood by its denial on Tuesday.
It said in a statement that it "maintains with consistency and reaffirms strongly" that an "armed terrorist group" had been identified and attacked.
The ministry also cast doubt on the UN probe's methodology.
"It contrasts unverifiable local testimonies and unsubstantiated hypotheses with a robust intelligence method used by the French armed forces," it said.
Investigators conducted 115 individual interviews. They also interviewed about 200 people in groups, and spoke to over 100 people on the phone, including victims and their family members.
UN investigators analysed about 150 publications, including statements, news articles and satellite imagery.
The probe also met French officials on March 5 and 12 to discuss the affair.
"This strike raises serious concerns about respect for the principles of the conduct of hostilities," the final report said.
- Why are the facts still disputed? - There is little by way of first-hand evidence in troubled central Mali.
External verification is extremely difficult in an area battered by jihadist attacks and ethnic violence.
Gaining direct witness testimony is difficult and travel to the area is also hazardous.
France, the former colonial power, intervened in Mali in 2013 to beat back the jihadists, and now has some 5,100 soldiers deployed across the semi-arid Sahel region.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict to date, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.
France's defence ministry said on Tuesday that the UN neither transcribed its interviews nor named interviewees.
The UN said its investigation team took precautions to avoid "manipulation" by its sources.