France Blames Russian Mercenaries in Mali for False Claims About Mass Graves

23/04/2022

The French military has accused Russian mercenaries of creating a mass grave and falsely blaming it on the French.

The French Army says it has drone video, seen by news agencies Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near Gossi, Mali, where the French army withdrew from a military base this week.

Video of what appears to be a similar location circulated Thursday on Twitter, showing a blurred image of what are alleged to be bodies buried in the sand. The accompanying Twitter message says the departing French army left that scene behind in Gossi.

Speaking to AFP and AP, the French Army said the mercenaries created the site to circulate images and blame the French army to stoke anti-French sentiment in Mali.

The drone video was reportedly captured Thursday morning, but the French army left Gossi on Tuesday. France recently said it would withdraw its troops from Mali in a operation expected to take four to six months.

A Twitter account named “Dia Diarra” posted a video Thursday, including what appears to be bodies partially buried in the sand, with the caption, “This is what the French left behind when they left the base at Gossi. These are excerpts from a video that was taken after they left! We cannot keep silent about this!”

“Dia Darra” claims to be a Malian veteran and “patriot” and posts mostly pro-Malian military and pro-Russia content. The original profile photo used for the account could also be seen on the Russian social media website VK on an account of a man believed to be located in Colombia.

After that was pointed out by several Twitter users, the profile picture was changed to a photo of Malian President Assimi Goita. The account has been active since January 2022.

Many governments have accused the Malian army of working with mercenaries from the Russian company the Wagner Group which, critics say, has close ties to the Russian government.

Mali’s government denies the allegation, saying it works only with “Russian instructors.”

In March, Human Rights Watch reported that residents of Moura, in central Mali, said that hundreds of civilians were killed by the Malian army while working with “white soldiers,” who spoke a language not familiar to them.

VOA spoke to a man who saw 12 to 15 men killed and witnessed both Malian and white soldiers in the village during the five-day operation.

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