First Published: 2013-01-23

 

Accusations of summary killings haunt Malian army

 

Reports emerge of atrocities committed by Malian soldiers as fears of attacks grow among light-skinned ethnic communities.

 

Middle East Online

By Serge Daniel – BAMAKO

Security deteriorating

A leading rights group accused Malian soldiers Wednesday of summary killings and serious abuses in the course of a French-led assault against Al Qaeda-linked groups, as concerns rose over the conflict's civilian toll.

Japan, which lost seven citizens in a deadly Islamist backlash in neighbouring Algeria against the French-led offensive, decided on Wednesday to close its embassy in Bamako citing a deteriorating security situation.

Nearly two weeks after France swept to Mali's aid to stop an Islamist advance towards the capital Bamako, reports emerged of atrocities committed by Malian soldiers and growing fears of attacks among light-skinned ethnic communities.

The majority of the Al Qaeda-linked rebels being hunted by the armies are either Tuaregs or Arabs.

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said that in the central town of Sevare at least 11 people were executed in a military camp near the bus station and the town's hospital, citing evidence gathered by local researchers.

Credible reports also pointed to around 20 other people having been executed in the same area and the bodies having been dumped in wells or otherwise disposed of, the organisation said.

At Nioro, in the west of the country close to the border with Mauritania, two Malian Tuaregs were executed by Malian soldiers, according to the FIDH.

The organisation called for an immediate independent inquiry commission to "determine the scale of the abuses and to punish the perpetrators."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has hailed France's "courageous" intervention but expressed fears over the safety of humanitarian workers and UN employees on the ground.

The tense security situation, heightened after the cross border attack in Algeria which left 37 hostages dead, prompted Japan to shut its embassy and evacuate key staff.

"After the French military advance the already unstable situation in Mali worsened further," foreign ministry spokesman Yutaka Yokoi told reporters in Tokyo.

On the ground French and Malian troops were due to sweep the outskirts of towns recently recaptured from the Al Qaeda-linked rebels for landmines they suspect the extremists left as they fled an air and ground assault by the armies.

France said it had already 2,300 soldiers in the West African nation, whose poorly-trained and -equipped force has been overwhelmed by Islamist rebels occupying the vast arid north since April and seeking to push south.

The former colonial power has said its troops will eventually hand over control to a UN-mandated West African force of more than 4,000 troops to be boosted by 2,000 men from Chad.

The fallout from the war, which experts have warned could be drawn out and complex, is causing concerns.

The UN refugee agency estimates up to a million people could have fled their homes in coming months, and rights bodies have warned of the dire situation faced by those escaping fighting.

There are also increasing reports of attacks on light-skinned Tuareg or Arabs from Malian security forces.

"Here if you wear a turban, have a beard and wear a Tuareg robe, you are threatened," said a shopowner in Segou, a town some 270 kilometres northeast of Bamako. "It has become very dangerous for us since this war started."

Malian army chief General Ibrahima Dahirou Dembele promised that any soldier involved in abuses would be brought to book.

"One mustn't get confused. Every white skin is not a terrorist or a jihadist and among the enemy which attacked our different position were many black skins. We are among brothers, whether one is black or white."

Meanwhile international moves to aid the operations have accelerated with the US military airlifting French troops and equipment from France into Mali.

Italy, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates are also providing transport planes or helicopters required to help move the African and French troops around Mali's vast expanses.

Mali's year-long crisis began when Tuaregs returning from fighting Gathafi's war in Libya, battle-hardened and with a massive arsenal, took up a decades-old rebellion for independence of the north which they call Azawad.

They allied with hardline Islamists amid a political vacuum in Bamako after a March coup, and seized the key towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu in a matter of days.

The Islamists later broke with their Tuareg allies, and with firm control of the north, implemented an extreme form of Islamic law.

The occupation sparked fears abroad that the vast northern half of the country could become a new Afghanistan-like haven for Al-Qaeda.

 

Saudi mosque attack intended to fan sectarian tension

Israeli deputy FM: 'All of it is ours'

Obama offers Tunisia closer security ties

IS fighters attack Iraq forces east of Ramadi

Israel solicits Platini to sway FIFA

Sudan's Islamists protest against el-Sisi

Islamic State claims Saudi mosque bombing

Islamic State reinforces ‘caliphate’ with control of borders

Iraqi forces to launch Ramadi offensive

Tunis asks Rome to extradite terror suspect

Suicide bomb attack on Saudi Shiite mosque

Saudi-led coalition warplanes pound Sanaa outskirts

Shebab gunmen raid Kenya village

Kuwait businessman Khorafi dies at 75

Yemen air strikes continue as Iran calls for talks

Israeli court orders release of Khalida Jarrar

Netanyahu meets with Arab leader Ayman Odeh

U.S. sanctions two companies linked to Iran's plane purchases

Iran supports Yemen talks, denounces foreign interference

IS militants call for attacks on Egypt's judges

11 killed in fresh Libya violence

Assad regime losses in Syria

Obama looks to bolster Tunisia's democratic gains

Turkey opposition unveils plan to build new 'mega-city' in Anatolia

Iraqi prime minister seeks Russian support against Islamic State

Iraq's Sunni tribes feel distrust towards Baghdad after Ramadi fall

Morocco illegal migrant arrest fuels Italy row

Qatar ‘failing to deliver’ on promised labour reforms

US to sell bombs, missiles to Israel, helicopters to Saudis

IS jihadists in full control of Syria's Palmyra

Yemen government wants rebel pullback before joining Geneva talks

Morocco King names four new ministers in second reshuffle

Gaza reconstruction going ‘far more slowly than expected’

France kills two jihadist chiefs in Sahel region

Clashes with ‘Islamic State’ rage on near Libya city of Sirte

Protests in Tunisia phosphate-producing region intensify

Iran aid ship to dock in Djibouti for inspection

Israel to face FIFA suspension bid

Letters of Bin Laden reveal accurate fear of surveillance

Yemen talks to open May 28 in Geneva

‘Islamic State’ fighters take control of Palmyra northern sector

Palestinian driver shot by Israeli police

New Egypt justice minister sworn in after judge's gaffe

IS, Syria regime locked in fierce battles near Palmyra

Rajoub: Conditions not ready for Israel-Palestine "match for peace"