“Murder”, “rapes”, “looting”… A report published Thursday by Human Rights Watch indicates that violence committed by jihadist groups is increasing in northeastern Mali.
The NGO is calling on the Malian authorities to “redouble their efforts” to protect civilians and recalls its concerns over the decision to withdraw the UN peacekeeping mission requested by Bamako.
Jihadist groups have since January 2023 multiplied “murders”, “rapes” and “looting” on a large scale against civilians in northeastern Mali, “forcing thousands of people to flee these regions”, stated Thursday, July 13, a Human Rights Watch Report .
“Security has greatly deteriorated due to clashes between two armed Islamist groups”, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) and the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM, or JNIM according to its Arabic acronym), linked to Al-Qaeda, who seek to control supply routes and increase their influence, the human rights organization explained.
“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.
The NGO says it has documented eight attacks between January and June, six in the Gao region and two in the Ménaka region in the northeast, the scene of a months-long push by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) group. According to her, they would have caused “hundreds” of deaths and forced thousands of people to flee the area.
Concern about the withdrawal of Minusma
The NGO reports testimonies collected by its investigators and describes combatants armed with “assault rifles”, “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 carried the flag of the Islamic State group, according to reports.
The organization also expressed concern over the decision to withdraw the UN peacekeeping mission (Minusma) requested by Bamako, which will take place over six months until the end of 2023. That risks “undermining” efforts to bring accountability for conflict-related abuses, according to the report.
Ilaria Allegrozzi thus calls on the Malian authorities to “redouble their efforts” to protect civilians and to “work in close cooperation” with their international partners.
The report also indicates that it has documented “serious abuses” by Malian security forces and by suspected forces of the Russian private security company Wagner, whose actions have been condemned 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 talks about Russian military instructors being deployed in the name of state-to-state cooperation.
In a report in May, the UN had accused the Malian army and “foreign” fighters of executing at least 500 people in March 2022 during an anti-jihadist operation in the center of the country, which refutes the Malian junta.
Mali has been in the grip of a deep security crisis since 2012, driven by jihadist and separatist or self-defense groups. Starting in the north, it spread to the center of the country, to the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.