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Reports of Atrocities Emerge as France Escalates Mali War

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  • Romi Elnagar
    Reports Of Atrocities Emerge As France Escalates Mali War By Ernst Wolff 24 January, 2013 WSWS.org Only thirteen days after starting a war in Mali, France is
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2013
      Reports Of Atrocities Emerge As France Escalates Mali War

      By Ernst Wolff
      24 January, 2013

      Only thirteen days after starting a war in Mali, France is massively escalating its troop
      presence there, even as reports emerge of escalating ethnic killings by
      French-backed Malian troops.
      On Tuesday the Malian regime extended the state of
      emergency declared on January 11 for three months. At the same time,
      French and Malian troops set up positions in central Mali around the
      strategic airfield at Sévaré.
      The airfield was reportedly the main initial target
      of the French intervention. Paris wanted to keep it from falling into
      the hands of the northern-based Malian opposition, so France could use
      the airfield to fly troops and equipment into the region.
      French forces are also blocking journalists from
      reporting from the war zone, to slow the stream of reports of killings
      of and atrocities against civilians by French and French-backed Malian
      forces. In Sévaré, at least 11 people were killed at a military camp,
      near its bus station and its hospital. “Credible information” pointed to about 20 other executions, with the bodies “buried hastily, notably in
      wells,” the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reported.
      A witness said the Malian army “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 a bus station.” The soldiers allegedly
      poured gasoline into the wells and set them ablaze to hide the evidence.
      Residents of Mopti in central Mali said that the
      Malian army had arrested, interrogated, and tortured innocent civilians, because the army thought that they were involved in the rebellion. Many Tuareg, who originally controlled the north, fled south when the
      Islamists took over and are being singled out for reprisals. Amnesty
      International claims to have evidence of extrajudicial killings of
      Tuareg civilians, the indiscriminate shelling of a Tuareg camp, and the
      killing of livestock.
      A woman of the Fulani ethnic group described her
      situation: “The army suspects us—if we look like Fulani and don’t have
      an identity card, they kill us. But many people are born in small
      villages and it’s very difficult to have identification. We are all
      afraid. There are some households where Fulanis or others who are
      fair-skinned don’t go out any more. We have stopped wearing our
      traditional clothes—we are being forced to abandon our culture, and to
      stay indoors.”
      The Malian army has a record of ethnic killings.
      Last September a truck with eighteen preachers from Mauritania crossed
      the border at Diabaly on their way to Bamako for a conference. Though
      none were armed and they had papers indicating their mission, all were
      massacred by the troops manning the border checkpoint.
      Asked about abuses committed by Malian forces in an
      interview Wednesday on France 24 television, French Defense Minister
      Jean-Yves Le Drian cynically commented, “There’s a risk.”
      Amateur cell phone videos on the internet show huge
      blasts and fireballs in living areas, and bloggers from Mali are
      reporting numerous casualties. The United Nations has reported that
      thousands of people have been forced from their homes over the past ten
      days. An estimated 230,000 people are now displaced across the country.
      According to Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations’
      refugee agency, the violence could soon displace up to 700,000 in Mali
      and around the region.
      The Norwegian Internal Displacement Monitoring
      Center reported that people in the north were increasingly heading into
      the desert, as Algeria had closed its borders. Many are fleeing on foot
      because they cannot afford boats or buses.
      Sory Diakite, the mayor of Konna, who fled to Bamako with his family after a French raid, described the bombing of his town. He said that during the assault in the first days of the war, people
      “were killed inside their courtyards, or outside their homes. People
      were trying to flee to find refuge. Some drowned in the river. At least
      three children threw themselves in the river in order to avoid the
      bombs. They were trying to swim to the other side.”
      The constant increase in the number of soldiers, the massive build-up of ever-deadlier weapons and the increasing
      willingness of its allies to step up their support signify that such
      violence will only continue to escalate.
      France is deploying more soldiers and more high-tech weaponry. Some 2,150 French soldiers are in Mali, and their number will rise to 5,000 by the end of the month.
      The African-led International Support Mission to
      Mali (AFISMA) will comprise almost 6,000 soldiers, instead of the
      initially planned 3,300 soldiers, costing around $500 million.
      The Gazelle helicopters that participated in the
      first wave of French air attacks are being replaced by Tiger helicopter
      gunships, which have a longer range and greater firepower. “Cheetah”
      units based in France have been placed on alert, including a number of
      Leclerc heavy tanks and units armed with truck-mounted 155-millimeter
      artillery pieces.
      So far nearly 1,000 African troops from Benin,
      Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso have arrived in Mali. Senegalese troops
      and up to 2,000 soldiers from Chad are on the way. Their transport is
      being provided by France’s allies: Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the
      Netherlands, Spain, the United Emirates, and Canada. Italy approved
      sending 15 to 24 military instructors to work alongside the European
      Union (EU) in training Malian forces and also agreed to provide
      logistical support with at least two cargo planes.
      US forces began their mission in support of the Mali war on Monday. Five four-engine C-17 planes took off from the
      Istres-LeTubé airbase in southern France, loaded with French cargo which they dropped off in the Malian capital, Bamako.
      According to German news magazine Der Spiegel,
      British forces were on “high alert” for possible deployment in Mali, in
      case France asks for help. The British foreign ministry denied the
      report, however.
      Yesterday French Rafale and Mirage jets bombed
      targets near Gao, Timbuktu and Ansongo, a town near the border with
      Niger. Col. Oumar Kande, ECOWAS military and security adviser in Mali,
      said, “It is possible we will win back Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal in a
      month, but it is impossible to say how long the overall war will last.”
      Kande’s words are in line with remarks by British
      Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that the Mali war might last
      years or decades.


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