In April of this year, Amnesty International reported allegations that six bodies had been found in a mass grave near the village of Dogo in the Mopti Region of central Mali. Villagers accused Malian security forces of perpetrating the killings following a mass arrest. This month, RFI (French) reported new accusations by villagers in Nantaka and Kobaka, Mopti, that another mass grave containing twenty-five bodies had been found. Again, security forces are accused of killing detainees, in this instance following a mass arrest on June 13; in this case, as in other instances, the accusation is that security forces conducted executions on an ethnic basis, targeting the Peul ethnic group (all twenty-five bodies are reportedly those of Peul villagers).
Central Mali is the site of a multi-faceted conflict involving state security forces, ethnic-based militias and hunters’ groups, jihadists, bandits, and others. Security force abuses are one driver among many in the conflict, especially as reports grow of collective punishment of the Peul – who furnish some recruits for jihadists, but who are now facing ethnic profiling by the state and by other ethnic groups.
Yesterday, the Malian Ministry of Defense and Former Combatants posted a statement (.pdf) acknowledging the involvement of FAMa (Malian Armed Forces) in “grave human rights violations” in Nantaka and Kobaka. The Ministry is directing the military to open a formal investigation.
Nantaka and Kobaka are located (.pdf) just north of Mopti city, on the Niger River.
More at Reuters and Studio Tamani (French).
Since Monday, there have been reports of fighting in Mali around Mopti (map), Sevare (map), Konna (map), and Gnimignama (map, possibly inaccurate) between the Malian army and fighters from the Islamist coalition that includes Ansar al Din. These reports suggest an organized push southward by Ansar al Din and its allies. I had hoped to write an analysis of these events for today, but the situation remains too murky for that in my view. As the journalist Peter Tinti remarked on Twitter yesterday, in a comment that eloquently characterizes the reaction to many unfolding news stories, “Lots of people buy account X, others Y, all are peddling educated guesses and calling them certainty.” So instead of aiming at certainty I’ve rounded up some relevant stories that give a partial picture of the competing accounts.
- BBC: “The army used artillery [on Tuesday] against the Islamist fighters in the village of Gnimignama, 30km (19 miles) from army positions, according to army sources.”
- Al Jazeera: “Rebel fighters in Mali have captured at least 12 government soldiers along with their vehicle and equipment, reports say. The incident on Monday took place during a government patrol outside the town of Kona and near the city of Mopti, as fears rise that the rebels, who seized vast swathes of Mali’s north, are moving increasingly closer to areas under government control.”
- Reuters has a brief quotation from the Malian Ministry of Defense, saying, “The armed forces have driven off this attempted attack.”
- WSJ: “The Islamist rebels on Tuesday took new positions near the outskirts of a Niger River trading town that marks the south’s last outpost under government control, Mali’s army spokesman Lt. Col. Idrissa Traore said. The rebels entered the area around the sparsely populated town, Mopti, on Monday, he said.”
- Al Akhbar (Arabic) describes an Islamist attack on a Malian military unit and says, “Prominent leaders from Al Qa’ida are taking leadership of the ongoing military operations at present.”
- ANI (Arabic): “The Malian Army Fires Warning Shots in Konna.”
- Al Akhbar (French): Islamists attempted “to take control of the airport situated around twenty kilometers from the entrance to [Mopti]…the international airport of Mopti could serve as a forward base for African forces in case of intervention in northern Mali.”
- Sahara Medias (Arabic, from Monday) on fighting in Konna between Ansar al Din and the Malian army “without losses.”
Also of interest is an IRIN report from Sevare published January 3.
For updates I recommend following Bate Felix, Baba Ahmed, Peter Tinti, Andrew Lebovich, Hannah Armstrong, Baki 7our Mansour, Tommy Miles, Phil Paoletta, and Dr. Susanna Wing on Twitter.