Mali’s army and Wagner accused of committing a ‘massacre’ in Moura

By Benjamin Roger
Posted on Wednesday, 6 April 2022 10:27

A column of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA) pick-up trucks participate in a military operation against armed terrorist groups (GAT) with French Barkhane forces. Mali, Gourma (Tri-border region), January 2021. © FREDERIC PETRY/Hans Lucas via AFP
A column of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA) pick-up trucks participate in a military operation against armed terrorist groups (GAT) with French Barkhane forces. Mali, Gourma (Tri-border region), January 2021. © FREDERIC PETRY/Hans Lucas via AFP

According to corroborating sources, between 200 and 400 people were killed last week in Moura, a village in central Mali, by Malian soldiers and Russian mercenaries from Wagner.

In ten years of war, the Malian army has never been accused of such large-scale abuses. According to local NGOs and UN sources, between 200 and 400 civilians were killed between 27 March and 1 April by the Malian army and mercenaries from the Wagner group in the village of Moura, located in the Djenné circle in central Mali.

“If these macabre figures are confirmed, this would be the worst massacre caused by the Fama [Forces Armées Maliennes],” said a Western diplomatic source.

In a statement issued on 1 April, the Malian army referred to a “large-scale air-land operation of opportunity” in the Moura area, conducted from 23 to 31 March, which led to the neutralisation of 203 “fighters from armed terrorist groups.”

“Respect for human rights and international humanitarian law remains a priority in the conduct of operations,” said the armed forces’ general staff.

Shadowy areas

What really happened in Moura? Although some things still remain uncertain one week after the events took place, testimonies from survivors are beginning to emerge. At the end of March, the Fama and Wagner’s men who have been accompanying them on operations in this area since January were informed that members of the Macina katiba, which are linked to the Groupe de Soutien à l’Islam et aux Musulmans (GSIM), were present in Moura.

READ MORE From Russia to Africa: The trail of Wagner

“This village is in the heart of the flooded area, which has been controlled for several years by Macina katiba’s men. But this obviously does not mean that all its inhabitants are jihadists or that they are linked to jihadist groups,” says someone familiar with the area.

On 27 March, a fair took place in Moura. On that day, according to one of our sources, several armed men belonging to the jihadist movement were in the village to get supplies. At the end of the morning, Malian army helicopters flew over the village and began firing indiscriminately at the inhabitants. The aircraft then landed on the ground. Several Malian soldiers and Wagner mercenaries emerged, entered the village and shot at civilians. Reinforcements then came to assist them. Three days of encircling and occupying the village followed.

A terrible toll

The inhabitants, who are mainly from the Peul community, were arrested and interrogated. “They rounded up some of the people and started to search. Those who had gunpowder on them or in their homes were identified as jihadists, put on the side and killed on the spot,” says one of our sources.

Small groups were formed as they went along. Some were interrogated, tortured and eventually executed. The human toll, which is still unclear at this time, is terrible, as between 200 and 400 people were killed during these few days. Some sources have mentioned that there is a mass grave made up of 200 bodies located near the village.

In a statement issued on 4 April, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, described reports in which “operations carried out by Malian armed forces accompanied by Russian elements have caused the death of hundreds of people in the village of Moura” as “very worrying.”

Strategy of terror

Like the EU, many international partners and NGOs are now waiting for the UN Mission in Mali (UNMIS) to conduct an independent investigation into the case.

Summary executions in Balaguira, mass graves in Dangere-Wotoro… In recent weeks, an increasing number of accusations of abuse have been levelled against the Malian army and the Wagner group’s mercenaries.

“Since Wagner’s arrival in Mali, the logic has been to apply a strategy of terror, to show people that they should not collaborate with the jihadists. They certainly wanted to make an example of Moura,” says a Western official who is worried about this “unabashed violence.”

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