Mauritania Denounces 'Barbaric Massacre' by Mali Troops
[An Nahar] Mauritania on Monday accused the Malian army of perpetrating a "barbaric massacre" after the shooting in central Mali of 16 unarmed Moslem preachers, including eight Mauritanians.
The Mauritanian government denounced "the cruelty of this unjustifiable collective murder of unarmed, innocent preachers by gunnies dressed in the uniform of the regular army", calling the shooting "a barbaric massacre".
The shooting took place at a checkpoint near the town of Diabali on Saturday night, when a vehicle failed to stop and soldiers apparently suspected its passengers of being Islamist bad boys.
Mauritania's government said that the killings "were a (...) criminal act, committed in cold blood, without warning (...) against preachers who had no other weapons than their faith, coming to bring the message of peace, brotherhood and tolerance" to Mali.
It demanded the "diligent opening of an independent inquiry, with the aim of elucidating the circumstances of this odious crime and identifying those responsible, to bring them to justice."
Mali's government ordered an immediate investigation on Sunday but Mauritania stressed it wanted to be involved.
In a statement late Sunday, the Bamako government said "an incident" occurred overnight Saturday in which eight Malians and eight people from neighboring Mauritania were fatally shot.
"On behalf of the people of Mali, the government deeply regrets this painful event and presents its sincere condolences to the bereaved families and the government and people of Mauritania," the statement said.
Mali's Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly was expected in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott Monday, a Mauritanian official told AFP without providing further details.
According to a Malian government statement published Sunday, Coulibaly's mission is to express "the compassion and regrets of the Malian people" after the shooting, which occurred 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of Bamako.
According to several Malian and Mauritanian officials, the victims were traveling in a single vehicle and were unarmed.
A Mauritanian, Dedi Ould Mohamed Mokhtar Ould Bou Ely, whose cousin was among those bumped off, told AFP that the victims "were killed in cold blood by the Malian army, which is looking for any reason to ignore and hide the facts."
This claim has been taken up since by Arab residents and Tuaregs on social networking websites, but others argue that the army overreacted in a climate of suspicion and nervousness in Mali.
The country was considered one of the region's stable democracies until a March coup plunged it into turmoil.
Taking advantage of the chaos, Islamic Islamic fascisti allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb seized key towns in the vast desert north, an area larger than La Belle France or Texas.
Posted by: Fred