Witness describes killings by Malian army
DJENNE, Mali: Malian soldiers killed people accused of ties to radical Islamists at a bus stop around the time the French-led military intervention began, a witness told The Associated Press on Wednesday, detailing how the soldiers shot the victims and then threw their bodies into nearby wells.
|This isn't going to be a tidy little war...|
The people making the accusations crawl out of the woodwork right on schedule. Some of the charges will be true, some made up out of whole cloth, some exaggerated. Next step will be for the Frenchies to be doing the executions, looting, a few rapes here and there, and/or running amok in other ways. I think this is page 10 in the asymmetrical warfare instruction booklet.
The account from the witness, who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals, came the same day that a French human rights group accused Malian forces of dozens of "summary executions" and other abuses as they confront Islamic extremists.
How do you say "tut tut" in French?"They gathered all the people who didn't have national identity cards and the people they suspected of being close to the Islamists to execute them and put them in two different wells near the bus station," he said.
"Mahmoud, I wish that bus to Karachi would hurry up and get here!"
"If it don't get here soon we're toast!"
"Yore peppahs, pliss!"
[BANG! BANG! BANGETY BANG!
The soldiers later poured gasoline in the wells and set the bodies ablaze, he said.
The man described seeing at least three people killed in the incident at the Sevare bus stop on Jan. 10, a day before the French launched their military offensive following a surge southward by the Islamists into the town of Konna.
A day before the offensive? When the Malian forces were reported to be clutching each other in delicious fear of the beturbanned invaders?
The military blocked journalists from reaching the town of Sevare on Wednesday, expanding its security cordon all the way to the town of Djenne. Reporters trying to reach the area, including an Associated Press team, were turned away at checkpoints by soldiers, who cited the national state of emergency and concerns for the journalists' safety.
"Hi! I'm Jimmy Olson, from the Daily Planet! Here's my press pass..."
"Back off, you fool! You can't go in there! Somebody will shoot you!"
"[SNIFF!] You're just afraid I'll take pictures of all the dead bodies!"
"Hey, M. le Capitaine! We got another wise guy here!"
"Sacred blue! Another one?"
On Wednesday, the International Federation for Human Rights, or FIDH by its French acronym, called for the creation of an independent commission to look into the crimes and punish those responsible.
FIDH charged that Malian forces were behind about 33 killings - including of ethnic Tuaregs - since new fighting erupted Jan. 10 along the narrow belt between the government-controlled south and the north, which has been under the control of al-Qaida-linked militants for months.
|How about a commission to investigate all the killings done by the rebels? You know, as long as you're going about establishing commissions and all. Maybe you can get Carla del Ponte to help out with that...|
FIDH, naturally, investigated each case and determined that the deaders were non-combatants.
Malian Army Capt. Modibo Traore said the allegations were "completely false" but declined to comment further.
"How come the lower half of your face isn't as tanned as the upper half?"
"And you 'lost' your papers where again?"
"And your clothes don't fit right..."
"And you got a Pak accent..."
"And we gotta guy sez you sawed off his hand."
"Y'know, Captain, that was probably a human rights violation!"
"My heart [burp!]
Human rights groups have long expressed concerns about retaliatory violence against northern Malians or anyone seen as having ties to the Islamists whose capture of the north has divided the country in two.
"Tut tut. And tut. We can't have unnecessary violence against a swarm of Islamic brutes who tried to steal half the country!"
Asked in an interview Wednesday on France 24 television whether he knew of abuses committed by Malian forces, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said only: "There's a risk."
France is "counting on" the top ranks of the Malian army to help avoid any abuses, Le Drian said.
|Ah the French, masters of understatement. I'm surprised Mr. Le Drian didn't just give a Gallic shrug and walk away...|
"Yes, my dear allies! We are counting on you! We will be shocked, shocked, I tell you, should these Salafists be put down like mad dogs!"
"Aside from those who let themselves get indoctrinated by terrorists, who we totally condemn ... the Tuaregs are our friends," said Le Drian.
"Why, only last Thermidor they loaned us their lawn mower!"
Human rights groups have expressed concern about the situation in Mali - notably the activities of Malian troops. In a statement, FIDH pointed to "a series of summary executions" perpetrated by Malian forces notably in the towns of Sevare, Mopti, Niono and others along the lines of clashes.
"That's impossible! Page 12 of Malian army regulations specifically forbids such actions!"
In Sevare, at least 11 people were killed at a military camp, near its bus station and its hospital, and "credible information" pointed to about 20 other executions with the bodies "buried hastily, notably in wells," FIDH said.
The Malians are dealing with armed or potentially armed banditti, not with prisoners of war...
Malian troops also killed two ethnic Tuaregs in the Niono region, and "other allegations of summary executions continue to come to us," the group said.
The ethnicity of the deaders is immaterial. What's material is the question of whether they were members of the turban groups?
Dozens of ethnic Tuaregs in Bamako, Mali's capital far to the southwest, have had their homes raided by Malian forces, and at times been subjected to pillage and intimation, the group said.
But not to summary execution. That actually tells me (but what the hell do I know?) that the Malians are looking for the armed and dangerous guys, that they're trying to clean out fifth columnists, and that they're giving the benefit of the doubt. If they weren't, there would be at least a few dead Tuaregs in the capital. You can take it as a given that there were infiltrators and sympathizers. Probably in the next year or so there will be a few executions, assuming they can finger the guys with no visible means of support.
All of the victims are accused of being infiltrators or of having ties to the jihadists, of possessing weapons, or of not being able to produce identity papers or "simply targeted because of their ethnicity," it said.
I just said that.
The Islamist fighters have controlled the vast desert stretches of northern Mali, with the weak government clinging to the south, since a military coup in the capital in March last year unleashed chaos.
And now they're trying to take their country back, since the Frenchies have so kindly come to their assistance. Losing it was a bloody fiasco. Gaining back will be a triumph (of French arms, rather than Malian -- I think the entire Malian army is 7,500 strong) but it'll likely be nearly as bloody.
Egypt's Islamist president has warned that the French-led military intervention in Mali will worsen rather than resolve the conflict.
I've worn a groove in the top of my head, scratching it, as I try and figure why doing nothing and letting an international turban organization take over a country with major acreage in the Sahel and borders with lots of other places the turbans regard as their natural stomping grounds, would be a good thing.
Mohammed Morsi, who is to visit Paris Feb. 1, said the use of force will "make the situation so much worse than before," speaking in Cairo Wednesday.
|Guess which side Morsi is on...|
Posted by: Steve White