Malian forces backed by foreign military personnel are believed to have killed at least 500 people over several days in a village last year, the UN said Friday. The announcement comes just months after Mali expelled the UN peacekeeping mission from its borders.
The figures announced Friday came from a fact-finding report completed by the UN Human Rights Office. It noted that there is a strong indication that more than 500 people were killed by Malian troops and foreign military personnel, with the majority being summarily executed. These deaths occurred over a five-day period, during what has been labeled as Operation Moura.
The attack is alleged to have involved military helicopters flying over the village of Moura, opening fire on civilians. Soldiers then, “corralled people into the centre of the village, shooting randomly at those trying to escape.” Armed white men were seen alongside the Malian forces. Dozens of people were detained, and at least 58 women and girls were raped or subjected to other forms of sexual violence.
Malian authorities denied the UN’s requests to access the village of Moura itself. As a result, the report was created using interview data and witness testimony, as well as forensic and satellite information. The Malian Government rejected the report’s findings. Abdoulaye Maiga, a government spokesman, stated, “No civilian from Moura lost their life during the military operation. Among the dead, there were only terrorist fighters and all those arrested were handed over to the gendarmerie.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called the findings “extremely disturbing,” stressing that:
It is vital that Malian authorities take all necessary steps to ensure that Malian forces engaged in any military and law enforcement operations, including foreign military personnel under their command or control, fully respect the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
These comments come just months after Türk called on Mali to reverse its expulsion of Guillaume Ngefa-Atondoko Andali, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.