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Jihadist groups increase abuses in northeast Mali - HRW

Jihadist groups increase abuses in northeast Mali - HRW
Chadian soldiers who are fighting in support of Central African Republic   -  
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Ben Curtis/AP


Jihadist groups have multiplied since January 2023 large-scale "murders", "rapes" and "looting" of civilians in northeastern Mali, "forcing thousands of people to flee these regions", said Thursday in a statement. Human Rights Watch report.

"Security has deteriorated sharply due to clashes between two Islamist armed groups", the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) and the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM, or JNIM according to the Arabic acronym), linked to Al-Qaeda, who seek to control supply routes and increase their influence, explained the human rights organization.

"Armed Islamist groups are brutally attacking civilians and helping fuel a large-scale humanitarian emergency," said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Sahel researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented eight attacks between January and June, six in the Gao region and two in the Ménaka region in the north-east, which has been the scene of a push by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) for months. According to the NGO, these attacks have killed "hundreds" of people and forced thousands to flee the area.

The NGO reports testimonies gathered by its investigators describing fighters armed with "assault rifles" and "grenade launchers" and dressed in civilian clothes or fatigues with identifiable turbans.

They spoke several local languages (Tamashek, Fulfulde, Songhai, and Hausa), as well as Arabic, and sometimes flew the flag of the Islamic State, according to the witnesses.

The organisation also expressed concern about the decision to withdraw the UN peacekeeping mission (Minusma), which Bamako has called for and which will run for six months until the end of 2023. According to the report, it risks "undermining" efforts to ensure accountability for conflict-related abuses.

Ms Allegrozzi calls on the Malian authorities to "redouble their efforts" to protect civilians and to "work closely" with their international partners.

The report also states that it has documented "serious abuses" committed by the Malian security forces and by alleged forces of the Russian private security company Wagner, whose actions have been criticised in various countries.

The junta in power since 2020 has turned away from France to turn politically and militarily towards Russia. She denies Wagner's presence and speaks of Russian military instructors being deployed in the name of state-to-state cooperation.

The UN accused in May in a report the Malian army and "foreign" fighters of having executed in March 2022 at least 500 people during an anti-jihadist operation in the centre of the country, which the Malian junta refutes.

Mali has been in the grip of a deep security crisis since 2012, fueled by jihadist and separatist groups or self-defense groups. Starting in the north, it spread to the centre of the country and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.