mali. The Mura Massacre. The Wagner Group participated

Mass executions, including of civilians, killings often carried out without questioning. Plus the theft and confiscation of cell phones to eliminate all evidence. Reporters from The New York Times contacted witnesses to the Moura massacre in central Mali, who described the hell the soldiers and accompanying strangers prepared for them. According to diplomats, officials and representatives of human rights organizations, they were members of the Russian Wagner Group. – This is the outpost of Russia’s attempts to oust representatives of Western countries from there. And thanks to the fact that it is an informal structure, mercenaries can act more freely and without inhibitions – comments PISM analyst Jędrzej Czerep in an interview with tvn24.pl.

The first reports of the massacre in the town of Moura, in central Mali, emerged in early March. Now, New York Times reporters have reached out to witnesses who described the hell the soldiers prepared for them, theoretically supposed to pursue Islamist fighters who had operated in the area for years.

As the “NYT” writes, it all started on March 27, the last Sunday before Ramadan. The local market was filled with Moura towns. Suddenly, five low-flying helicopters appeared overhead. Shots were fired, people began to flee in panic, but it soon became apparent that they had nowhere to go, as soldiers emerged from helicopters and quickly surrounded the outskirts of the city in order to effectively block all escape routes.

Many of the soldiers were Malians but, according to eyewitnesses, they were accompanied by white foreigners dressed in military uniforms and speaking a language that is neither English nor French.

These foreigners – according to diplomats, officials and human rights organizations – belonged to an informal Russian military organization known as the Wagner Group.

>>> What is the Wagner group, or “Putin’s private army”?

five bloody days

Some local politicians and activists claim that between March 27 and 31, Malian soldiers and their Russian allies looted homes, took prisoners and executed hundreds of men.

From the testimonies quoted by the New York Times, emerges an image of five days that has left a bloody stigma.

There were detentions on Sunday, March 27. Mass executions began on Monday. According to witnesses, the victims were both civilians and unarmed combatants. Soldiers selected up to 15 people at a time, checking their fingers and arms for marks left by regular weapon use. The executions took place in front of other captives who were only a few meters away from them.

Meanwhile, Russian mercenaries chased people down the streets and broke into homes. “The white soldiers killed anyone who tried to flee,” said Bara, a cattle dealer who was himself one of the detainees, quoted by the American daily Bara.

On Tuesday, Malian soldiers ordered residents hiding there to leave their homes. Russian mercenaries took care of it. Modi, 24, remembers two white men shooting through the door of his house and the bullets barely passed him.

Shepherd Hamadou reports that when he left his home on Tuesday, “there were corpses everywhere”. When the stench became unbearable, the military ordered the owners of the carts to pick up the bodies and others to pick up the dry grass. The soldiers poured fuel over some of the bodies and set them on fire in front of the captives.

Other hearings took place on Wednesday, including women and children. There was also an execution.

The soldiers and their Russian allies left Thursday, March 31, after killing the last six prisoners. According to Hamadou, a Malian soldier told a group of prisoners that they had killed “all the bad people”. He apologized for the good people who “died by accident”.

The origin or the clothes can become a judgment

Witnesses said foreign soldiers and mercenaries killed prisoners at close range, often without questioning them, using only their ethnicity or clothing. Strangers prowled the city, indiscriminately killing people inside their homes, stealing jewelry and confiscating cell phones to eliminate all evidence.

However, this failed – using satellite photos, The New York Times identified the sites of at least two mass graves that matched eyewitness accounts of where the prisoners were executed and buried.

The army and the Malian authorities did not respond to repeated requests from the “NYT” to comment on the events.

“We had a house, but now we are strangers in our own country”

“We thought the white soldiers were going to free us from the jihadists, but they are more dangerous,” says Oumar.

Ten days after the end of the siege, two Malian government ministers offered food to residents, saying the army had brought peace and security. On Malian television, local officials hailed the military operation.

However, soon the militants came back and kidnapped the deputy mayor. His fate is still unknown.

According to Bara, one evening activists came to the village and announced that anyone who loves life should leave the village by 6 a.m. the next day. Many townspeople listened.

– We had a house, but now we are strangers in our own country – he adds.

The “proxy force” of the Russian Ministry of Defense

Internal conflicts in Mali have dragged on for a decade. The army is fighting against Islamic militants, first with the help of French forces and later from other European countries. However, as relations deteriorated between France and the new Malian authorities, who seized power last year in a military coup, French forces began to withdraw from Mali and were replaced. by the Wagner group.

The Wagner Group’s activities are described by the US Treasury Department as the “proxy force” of the Russian Defense Ministry, and analysts describe the group’s activities as an extension of Russian foreign policy.

Since the Wagner Group arrived in Ukraine in 2014, mercenary activity has been reported in Libya, Syria and countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Sudan and now Mali, writes the New York Times.

“For-post of Russian attempts to oust representatives of Western countries from there”

Dr. Jędrzej Czerep, analyst of the Polish Institute of International Affairs for the Middle East and Africa, in an interview with tvn24.pl, indicates that the Wagner Group is trying to be in the East African region. West “the front line of Russian attempts to drive out representatives of Western countries”. – And thanks to the fact that it is an informal structure, they can operate more freely and without inhibitions – adds- he.

He stresses that the Russian mercenaries are “self-sufficient”. – In addition to the fact that they earn for themselves, because they receive payments from the governments of the countries for which they provide services, they also receive contracts for the extraction of precious raw materials, including the gold – says Czerep. “The war economy we see at its worst,” he comments.

Why do Vagnerists operate in Mali? – Because it is the only place where they actually fight the jihadists – explains the analyst. Referring to the Moura massacre, Dr. Czerep points out that this city was the personal and logistical base of the local jihadists. He added that the attacks were targeting the Fulani people, an ethnic group inhabiting West African countries, as that is where most of the local jihadists come from, who in turn are the most active part of the coalition with al-Qaeda in this region. . Czerep believes that the actions of the Wagner group in Moura were carried out according to the methods of the “classic Russian purge – ‘first we shoot, then we ask what it’s called'”.

“Security services” provided by vangerists

Malian authorities hailed the actions of the military and mercenaries as a major victory in the fight against extremist groups. They claim to have killed more than 200 militants and arrested more than 50 others, but do not mention any civilian casualties. They deny the presence of Wagnerists, saying only that they have a contract with Russia to provide “instructors”.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Italian television in May that members of the Wagner Group were present in Mali “on a commercial basis” providing “security services”. According to the most conservative estimates of witnesses and analysts, the death toll from the Moura massacre ranged from 300 to 400, with the majority of the victims being civilians.

In turn, according to reports from the UN mission in Mali, nearly 500 civilians were killed in joint military and mercenary operations.

LISTEN TO MACIEJ TOMASZEWSKI’S PODCAST ON THE WAGNER GROUP “PUTINA TOURISTS”

The Wagner Group and the War in Ukraine

The Wagner Group is reportedly headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a pro-Kremlin oligarch closely associated with President Vladimir Putin. In a written response to questions posed by the New York newspaper, Prigozhin praised the current ruler of Mali, his army and the activities in Moura. He called reports of the presence of Wagnerists in Mali a “fairy tale” and added that the group even existed. However, he assured that “wherever there are Russian entrepreneurs, real or fictitious, they never violate human rights”.

On Wednesday, the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg upheld the personal sanctions imposed in 2020 by the Council of the Union on Prigozhin, who was punished for involving Wagnerians in Libya. “Following serious human rights violations in Libya, the Council adopted in October 2020 restrictive measures against Yevgeny Viktorovitch Prigojine, a Russian businessman closely linked to the Wagner group involved in military operations in the country. The decision was extended to July 2021.” remind the court.

There are also numerous reports of the participation of Wagnerists in the war in Ukraine.

British Ministry of Defence: Wagner Group mercenaries sent to eastern Ukraine >>>

In late March, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby reported that Russia had brought about 1,000 Wagner Group mercenaries into the Donbass. On Tuesday, the UNIAN agency, citing the findings of, among others, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), reported that the Ukrainian forces managed to defeat the Wagnerists in the region.

Moscow officially denies any connection with the Wagner group.

tvn24.pl, New York Times, PAP

Main photo source: Minister of the Armed Forces

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