Malian troops and suspected Russian mercenaries allegedly executed about 300 civilian men in central Mali over five days, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on April 5.
Citing witnesses and local community leaders, HRW said that Malian soldiers and foreign soldiers — identified by sources as Russians — rounded up hundreds of people in the town of Moura and executed them in small groups in late March.
Some of those killed were suspected Islamist fighters, HRW said.
Others said that the killings were ethnically-based, according to HRW.
The killings were part of a Malian military operation that began on March 27 and involved over 100 Russian troops, HRW said, citing sources.
HRW called the killings “the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict.”
“Abuses by armed Islamist groups is no justification at all for the military’s deliberate slaughter of people in custody,” HRW Sahel Director Corinne Dufka said.
“The Malian government is responsible for this atrocity, the worst in Mali in a decade, whether carried about by Malian forces or associated foreign soldiers,” Dufka further said.
The Malian Defense Ministry said in a statement on April 1 that it killed 203 “terrorists” and arrested 51 others in a “large-scale assault” on Moura from March 23 to 31.
The Defense Ministry added that the army had acted on intelligence that suggested that armed Islamists were planning to meet with different battalions in Moura.
Moura consists of about 10,000 residents located in the Mopti region, a hotspot of jihadist activity that has intensified and spread to other countries in the Sahel region.
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