U.N. experts said in a new report that Malian armed forces allegedly carried out an operation with “white-skinned soldiers” near the border with Mauritania in March, shooting and burning at least 33 civilians in one of several operations where the country’s ruling military appeared to work closely with likely Russian mercenaries.
In the first three months of this year, they said 543 civilians were killed and 269 injured, according to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali.
In the grim and wide-ranging report obtained Friday by The Associated Press, the panel of experts said the political situation remains tense and warned that the 2015 peace agreement between Mali’s government and non-extremist armed independence groups “is threatened by a potential risk of confrontation between the parties for the first time since July 2017.”
They said 12 million people need humanitarian assistance, a sharp increase from 5.9 million last year, including 1.9 million people facing the threat of “acute malnutrition” during the current lean season which lasts through August.
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks on the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks on civilians and U.N. peacekeepers. (AP )