Mass grave in Niono: MINUSMA accuses Malian army and Wagner Group

By Benjamin Roger
Posted on Tuesday, 15 March 2022 14:35

A Malian army pick-up patrols the town of Konna, 20 March 2021. MICHELE CATTANI/AFP

A report by the human rights division of Minusma (the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali) suggests the involvement of the Malian army and mercenaries from the Russian company Wagner in the massacre of some 30 people in early March.

The Malian Armed Forces (also known by the French acronym FAMa) denounced Minusma’s charge as a “disinformation” operation, arguing that they “could not be responsible for such an abjection.” However, according to the Minusma report, the Malian army and Wagner mercenaries are accountable for the mass grave discovered in early March in the Niono Cercle, an administrative subdivision of Mali’s Ségou region.

Joint patrols

On March 2, at least thirty charred bodies were found near the village of Dangere-Wotoro, in the commune of Dogofry, Niono Cercle. Several local sources have since accused the Malian military of committing the massacre, images of which – “fabricated” according to the army – quickly emerged on social media.

“As for the perpetrators, there are reports that this incident was carried out by elements of the Malian Armed Forces, supported by members of the Russian private military company known as Wagner,” says the March 5 report from Minusma’s human rights and protection division. Since January, Wagner mercenaries have indeed been deployed in the Niono Cercle and other areas of central Mali, where they conduct joint patrols with the Malian military.

Fulani victims ‘burned alive’

According to the document, the remains found near Dangere-Wotoro included those of children. Almost all of the victims are believed to be members of the Fulani community. Most had their hands tied behind their backs and their eyes covered. A jerry can smelling of gasoline was also found near the mass grave, suggesting, according to the report, that “the victims were doused with gasoline and burned alive.”

The report also indicates that investigations are continuing into other cases of “serious violations” committed in the Niono Cercle. These are also attributed to FAMa, accompanied by Wagner mercenaries. It notably mentions the arrest of some fifty people: ten in the village of Djadja on February 14, six in Limane on February 18, about thirty at the Niono market on February 20, and seven more in Feto and Beli-Danedji on March 1.

When contacted, Minusma said that it “does not comment on unofficial documents” and that it “cannot confirm the veracity of information before the conclusion of a thorough investigation.”

 

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