The United Nations (U.N) says it is “extremely concerned” that Mali has not allowed independent investigators to visit the town of Moura, where local troops and suspected Russian mercenaries allegedly killed hundreds of civilians.
At the end of March, a five-day “military operation” in the central Malian town of Moura reportedly left at least 300 men dead.
There are further allegations that civilians were summarily executed during the raid on the town of about 10,000 inhabitants that had been infiltrated by Islamist militants.
Survivors claim that white mercenaries – suspected to be Russians – took part in the massacre that sparked international outrage, prompting the UN to open an investigation.
Mali has denied the allegations, saying it had conducted a professional operation to attack insurgents in Moura, and that it would carry out its own assessment of the incident.
In statement, UN spokesperson Seif Magango said: “We are extremely concerned that Malian authorities have still not granted UN human rights investigators access.”
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“Time is of essence to ensure accountability and prompt, effective justice for victims,” he added.
Magango said unconfirmed sources suggest the death toll from the raid on Moura could be as high as 500, mostly civilians.
The UN says that soldiers reportedly raped, looted and arbitrarily detained a number of the town’s inhabitants.
The reports of the massacre come as Mali continues to struggle to stem armed groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that have gained ground in the Sahel and escalated attacks across the region over the past decade.
The military junta that toppled Mali’s government in a military coup in 2020 has sought the help of private fighters belonging to Russia’s Wagner Group, who are accused of committing abuses in other countries and sanctioned by the European Union.
Both Mali and Russia have maintained they are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops with equipment purchased from Russia.
The Russian government has repeatedly denied any ties to the Wagner group.
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