Mali Separatists Deny Mass Grave Claims in Strategic Town

Tuareg-dominated rebel groups in northern Mali on Wednesday rejected the army’s claims that it discovered a mass grave after taking the strategic northern town of Kidal from the separatists last week.

The army made the claim Saturday after saying it discovered the site Thursday in operations to “secure” the city.

But the separatists hit back with a statement charging that these “allegations (are) wholly fabricated (and) obviously intended to hide the horrible massacres committed by the terrorist duo Wagner-Fama,” referring to Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the Malian armed forces.

The separatists slammed what they termed “a clumsy manoeuvre to allow to go unmentioned all the massacres perpetrated” by the army and their Russian paramilitary allies.

On November 14, Mali’s army retook Kidal, a Tuareg separatist stronghold that had not been under central government control since 2014.

The region had been generally calm until unrest broke out last August.

The town was retaken after forces from the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) left their camp in Kidal on October 31 as part of an agreement to withdraw from the country by the end of the year.

The army took power in Mali in a 2020 coup, and after months of worsening relations with Minusma this June asked for their departure, sparking a race for control pitting rebel groups against the government and its allies.

Kidal is a bastion of separatism and the military regime touted its recapture as a big success.

After seizing power three years ago the junta ditched its traditional alliance with former colonial power France, preferring rapprochement with Moscow.

Last year, after French troops pulled out of their base in the central city of Gossi, the army likewise said it had found a mass grave.

Earlier, the French army showed drone images it said were from days earlier purporting to show Russian mercenaries burying bodies near the base.

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