Mali's ruling junta called on the United States on Sunday to stop what it claimed was a disinformation campaign, after sanctions were imposed on two Malian officers whom Washington accused of taking part in a massacre in the centre of the country in 2022.
Last week the State Department announced visa restrictions against Moustapha Sangare, then commander of a parachute commando regiment, and Major Lassine Togola, commander of a special forces battalion. The two men "were responsible for elements of the Malian armed forces that carried out the operations in Moura", according to the State Department.
In early May, the UN accused the Malian army and "foreign" fighters of executing at least 500 people in March 2022 during an anti-jihadist operation in Moura. Westerners, including the Americans, claim that these foreign fighters are members of the Russian private security firm Wagner, whose activities have been criticised in various countries.
The junta in power since 2020 denies the presence of Wagner and speaks of Russian army instructors deployed in the name of state-to-state cooperation. It rejected the UN report as biased and claimed that only jihadists had been killed in Moura, and no civilians.
At the same time as the sanctions against the two Malian commanders, the US Treasury announced retaliatory measures against Ivan Maslov, whom it presented as Wagner's chief in Mali.
The US has also accused Wagner of trying to use Mali as an intermediary to get arms to its fighters in Ukraine.
The Malian government "was stunned to learn of the unilateral decision" by the US government to sanction the two Malian officers, "on the sole basis of the United Nations report", its spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, said in a statement.
On 25 May, Malian Foreign Affairs "invited" US ambassador Rachna Korhonen to inform her of "the extreme seriousness of the false accusations made against the Republic of Mali", he said.
The government "is upset by these actions, which are having a negative impact on bilateral cooperation", he said. It "appeals to the government of the United States of America to stop the disinformation campaign against Mali", he declared.