The United Nations, U.N, said on Wednesday that it is “very worried” that Mali has stopped its investigators from entering a town where local forces and suspected Russian fighters are accused of killing hundreds of civilians.
According to a Human Rights Watch investigation, at least 300 men are suspected to have been summarily murdered during a raid on Moura, a town of roughly 10,000 people overrun by militants, on March 27-31.
Survivors stated the slaughter, which drew international outrage and spurred the United Nations to initiate an investigation, was carried out by white mercenaries presumed to be Russians.
Mali has refuted the charges, claiming that it carried out a professional operation in Moura to combat rebels and that it will conduct its own investigation.
“We are extremely concerned that Malian authorities have still not granted UN human rights investigators access.
“Time is of essence to ensure accountability and prompt, effective justice for victims,” U.N. spokesperson Seif Magango said in a statement.
Unconfirmed sources, according to Magango, say that the death toll could be as high as 500 people, largely civilians.
Soldiers allegedly raped, looted, and imprisoned a number of Moura residents, according to the statement.
Separately on Wednesday, the UN mission in Mali expressed worry over claims of fresh human rights breaches by the Malian army, which was accompanied by a group of foreign soldiers, during a weekly market in Hombori, northern Mali, on Tuesday.
The mission said on Twitter that it has launched an inquiry and would be visiting the location shortly.
Mali is fighting to contain extremist organizations affiliated to al Qaeda, who have gained power and expanded attacks in the parched Sahel area of West Africa over the last decade, moving south and into neighboring nations.
A junta that deposed Mali’s government in a military coup in 2020 has sought the assistance of private fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group, which has been accused of human rights violations in other countries and has been sanctioned by the European Union.
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