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French army strike killed 19 civilians in January, UN report finds

The French military said it had only shot down jihadists in an operation in central Mali on January 3.
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France was accused by a UN report, published Tuesday, March 30, of having killed 19 civilians in a strike in Mali. The French army had so far claimed to have hit only dozens of jihadists, during a strike near the village of Bounti (central Mali) on January 3. But civilians and a local association claimed that several civilians had died during a wedding.

In its report, the human rights division of the UN Mission in Mali (Minusma) explains that it is “able to confirm the holding of a wedding celebration which gathered at the scene of the strike a hundred civilians among whom were five armed people, alleged members of the Katiba Serma”. The Katiba Serma is affiliated with the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, or JNIM in Arabic), a jihadist alliance itself affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

The affected group “was overwhelmingly composed of civilians who are persons protected against attacks under international humanitarian law”, explains Minusma. At least 22 people were killed, including three suspected Katiba Serma members – 19 instantly, 3 during their evacuation, the document claims.

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“There were several strikes, one after the other”, told a witness of the bombing to Franceinfo in early February. “When I came back, I discovered the carnage, we couldn’t identify the victims.”

The Minusma “recommended” the Malian and French authorities to take action “an independent, credible and transparent investigation“. She recommends examining the processes prior to the strikes, or even modifying them. She also recommends that the French and Malians seek to establish responsibilities and grant, if necessary, reparation to the victims and their relatives.

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