Armed groups committing atrocities in Mali: HRW

Mali is plagued by armed groups, making swaths of territory ungovernable. However, UN peacekeepers have been kicked out.

Malians are caught up in interethnic violence [File: Hamidou Saye/AP]Published On 8 May 20248 May 2024

Al-Qaeda-linked and warring ethnically-based armed groups are committing atrocities in Mali, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports.

The watchdog said in a report released on Wednesday that fighters from Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa al-Muslimeen (JNIM) and Dozo militia killed 45 people in separate attacks on villages in Central Mali in January. Mali has been plagued by such groups since 2015, but late last year, its transitional government ejected a UN peacekeeping mission.

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On January 6, a Dozo armed group consisting mainly of ethnic Bambara killed 13 people and abducted 24 civilians in the village of Kalala, which has a predominantly Fulani population.

JNIM fighters, largely Fulani, attacked the villages of Ogota and Ouembe on January 27, killing at least 32 people, including three children, the report said. The attackers set fire to more than 350 homes and forced 2,000 people to flee.

The attacks, which occurred amid recurrent tit-for-tat killings and communal violence in central Mali, violate international humanitarian law and are apparent war crimes, HRW stressed.

“Islamist armed groups and ethnic militias are brutally attacking civilians without fear of prosecution,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Sahel researcher at HRW. “The authorities need to act to end the deadly cycles of violence and revenge killings and better protect threatened civilians.”

Groups aligned with al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have operated in Mali since 2015, seizing territory and making swaths of the country ungovernable.

A military government seized power in 2021, promising to tackle insecurity, but attacks remain rife. The military itself faces several accusations of rights abuses.

Mali along with its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger, where armed groups operate across porous borders, are all led by military governments that seized power in recent years. All three have kicked out French forces that once helped push back the armed groups and have instead formed a security alliance, turning to Russia’s mercenary units for help.

In December, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission pulled out of Mali at the request of the military government.

HRW said authorities are failing to adequately investigate incidents implicating members of armed groups or ethnic militias.

Source: News Agencies