Mali: Militants kill at least 20 civilians in Gao troubled region
A general panic was witnessed in Gao as civilians were fleeing the region after militants killed at least 20 civilians.
Militants in Mali killed at least 20 civilians in attacks on villages near the northern town of Gao over the weekend, while a landmine killed a UN peacekeeper in the troubled region.
A senior police officer said that "criminal terrorists" on Saturday killed at least 20 civilians in several parts of the Anchawadj commune, a few dozen kilometers north of Gao.
A local official attributed the attacks to jihadists and said the death toll reached 24, indicating that the killings occurred at Ebak, some 35 kilometers (23 miles) north of Gao, the region's main town.
The official described a "general panic" in the area, adding that the situation in Anchawadj was "very concerning", and civilians were fleeing the area fearing further violence.
Targeting UN peacekeepers may constitute war crimes
Following the bloodshed on Saturday, a landmine killed a UN peacekeeper on Sunday as he was out on patrol further north in Kidal, the head of the UN's MINUSMA Mali force, El Ghassim Wane, tweeted.
The spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the killing of the peacekeeper, who he said was from Guinea.
"Attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law," the spokesperson pointed out.
Gao region has become increasingly violent and unstable
While there has been no official confirmation that the attacks were carried out by jihadist groups, militants affiliated with either Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group are active in the region.
The region has become increasingly violent and unstable since Tuareg separatist rebels rose up against the government in 2012.
The Tuareg separatists and the government agreed to a peace accord in 2015, but it has yet to be applied.
"A good part of the Gao region and that of Menaka" are occupied by the jihadists, said the official in Gao, stressing that "the state must do something."
Government stability meanwhile has been interrupted by military coups in August 2020 and May 2021.
Following his latest report on the area, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month warned that instability in Mali and Burkina Faso were undermining attempts to stabilize the region.
The security situation in the Gao region had badly deteriorated in recent months, he said, voicing concern over Menaka, the eastern region bordering Niger.
"Flagrant abuses" of national sovereignty
Just last week, French troops were in the process of handing back a military base in northeastern Mali before their final withdrawal from there, according to the French army.
But Wane said that the withdrawal can be trouble for Menaka, saying that the people there "did not rule out an attack" on the town.
In May, the Mali junta decided to withdraw all defense treaties with France, citing "flagrant abuses" of national sovereignty.
Mass graves near a French base
It is noteworthy that Bamako has accused the French military of espionage and sabotage.
Last month, Malian troops found bodies buried next to the former French military base in Gossi.
The French military is scurrying to hide mass graves in Mali that they have been responsible for, according to a member of Mali's National Transitional Council, Aboubacar Sidiki Fomba, told Sputnik.
"The French military lies, fabricates facts, wanting to hide mine wells. If there are mass graves, then they are responsible for them," Sidiki Fomba said.