Sunday

29th May 2022

Civilian and French military casualties mount in Mali fighting

  • The EU also has two military-training missions in the Sahel region (Photo: Defence Images)

More than 20 civilians were killed by an unidentified helicopter gunship in Mali this weekend, on top of mounting French army casualties, according to reports.

The helicopter, flying at low altitude, opened fire on what was a wedding party in a remote desert region in central Mali on Sunday (3 January), according to health workers and locals speaking to the Reuters, AFP, and AP news agencies.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The helicopter appeared to be in pursuit of jihadist fighters on motor bikes near the villages of Bounti and Kikara, but ended up killing more than 20 people, including children.

The French military said it had carried out air-strikes in central Mali on the same day, killing dozens of Islamist insurgents, but denied involvement in the wedding, saying its targets had been first identified by a drone.

"Reports relating to a wedding do not match the observations that were made", colonel Frederic Barbry, a French military spokesman, told AP on Tuesday.

"There can't be any doubts or ambiguity, there was no wedding," a French military source also told AFP.

"This was a strike that was carried out after a particularly strict, multi-party process on a fully-identified armed terrorist group, after collating information, intentions, posture, in a studied area," the source said.

Two French soldiers were also killed by a roadside bomb in the Menaka region in eastern Mali while on a reconnaissance mission earlier on Saturday.

A jihadist group, Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, a branch of Al Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 strikes in the US almost 20 years ago, later claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Site Intelligence Group, a US private-intelligence company.

Three other soldiers were also killed last week in Mali by a bomb attack claimed by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, another Al Qaeda-linked organisation.

Meanwhile, between 50 and 100 villagers were also massacred on Saturday in Tchomo-Bangou in neighbouring Niger, near the Malian borer, by unknown gunmen.

The strike came after 34 people were killed in similar circumstances in Diffa, Niger, near its border with Nigeria, last month.

The UN says some 4,000 people died in fighting in the Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso "tri-border" area in 2019.

France currently has more than 5,000 soldiers in the wider Sahel region in an intervention in its former colonies which began seven years ago in the wake of the Libya conflict in 2011, when French-led air-strikes helped topple Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, destabilising the country, and prompting jihadists to flock to the area.

The EU also has two military-training missions in Mali and in Niger.

It suspended its Mali mission last August following a military coup in the country, but it is unclear if the operation later resumed work.

"It is known that some of the leading figures of the coup d'etat have also enjoyed training in Germany and France," German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters at the time.

"We don't train armies to be putschists," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also said.

"Ninety percent of the army has been trained by our mission, but the four most prominent [coup] leaders have not been trained by our mission," he said.

Mali blames West for chaos in Libya

Mali's foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop told the EU in Brussels that the lack of vision and planning following the Nato-led bombing campaign in Libya helped trigger the current migration and security crisis.

Column

In the Sahel, France deserves the support of Europe

If Europe wants to have a chance to bring back some stability and keep some ground against other powers, it must learn to be a better partner. Doing what we are doing is not an option.

Opinion

Will Portugal fix EU's defence and security policy?

The difficulty of getting enough support for a mission even in extreme crisis situations was demonstrated by the six rounds of negotiations it took to raise 700 troops for the EU operation in the Central African Republic in spring 2014.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us