German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Saturday reiterated her doubts about maintaining the German armed forces’ commitment in Mali during a trip to the country during which she spoke of “atrocities” committed in Moura.
Mali’s military-dominated government says it “neutralized” 203 jihadis in Moura, but witnesses interviewed by media and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say soldiers instead killed scores of civilians.
“Is this regime that we want to support,” Lambrecht asked after a meeting with German soldiers in northern Gao, her ministry said.
“We see that Malian soldiers are being trained in a tremendous way by highly motivated and skilled German soldiers, and then they go on missions with these capabilities, for example with Russian forces, even with mercenaries,” the minister added.
“And the question then arises of whether this can be compatible with our values, especially if we then have to witness atrocities like in Moura,” she said.
Calls for investigation
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday cast doubt on Mali’s account of events in Moura.
“The authorities in Bamako announce 200 terrorists killed, without civilian casualties. I have a hard time believing, I have a hard time understanding, I have a hard time accepting these explanations,” he said.
“There needs to be a United Nations investigation and we demand this,” he added.
No mercenariesIn February, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of thousands of troops deployed in Mali under France’s anti-jihadi mission in the Sahel.
Bamako denies the presence of mercenaries from the Russian group Wagner in Mali, acknowledging only the presence of what it calls Russian instructors and trainers under a bilateral cooperation agreement with Moscow dating from the 1960s.
In a report, Human Rights Watch said Malian soldiers and foreign fighters had executed 300 civilians between March 27 and 31 in Moura.
Malian forces were operating in tandem with white foreign soldiers, according to HRW, who are believed to be Russian because witness accounts refer to them as non-French-speaking.
Russia has supplied what are officially described as military instructors to Mali.
However, the United States, France, and others, say the instructors are operatives from the Russian private-security firm Wagner.
The U.N. special envoy for Mali, El Ghassim Wane, on Thursday called on the Malian authorities to provide access to the area.
Ruled by a military junta since August 2020, Mali has been in turmoil since 2012.
Jihadi attacks have spread from the north to the center of the country and into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger