By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS -Malian government troops and “white-skinned soldiers” detained 33 civilians in central Mali in March who were later found shot dead and their bodies burned, sanctions monitors told the U.N. Security Security Council in a report seen by Reuters on Friday.
The report does not identify the “white-skinned soldiers” who are accused of rounding up men and older boys in a small Malian village, tying their hands behind their backs and blindfolding them. Malian troops then arrived and are accused of beating the men and taking away 29 Mauritanians and four Malians.
“The women waited for the return of the men, but were notified by relatives a day later that the men’s bodies had been found 4 km (2.4 miles) away. The men had been shot and then burnt,” wrote the U.N. monitors, citing testimony they received.
Mali is struggling to stem an Islamist insurgency that took root after a 2012 uprising and has since spread to neighbouring countries, killing thousands and displacing millions across West Africa’s Sahel region.
A U.N. peacekeeping mission was deployed in 2013 to support foreign and local troops battling the militants.
Mali military leaders seized power in an August 2020 coup and have sparred with regional neighbours and international partners over election delays, alleged army abuses and cooperation with Russian mercenaries.
A Malian government official told Reuters on Friday they were not aware of the U.N. sanctions monitors report and did not want to comment.
Russia’s Wagner Group began supplying hundreds of fighters last year to support the Malian military and has since been accused by human rights groups and local residents of participating in massacres of civilians.
The Russian government has acknowledged Wagner personnel are in Mali, but the Malian government has described them as instructors from the Russian military rather then private security contractors. Wagner has no public representation and has not commented on the accusations of human rights violations.
(Additional reporting by Fadima Kontao in Bamako; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)