Russians Made Us Dig Mass Graves to Cover up Crimes in Moura, Northern Mali

ABUJA, Nigeria — The French Army has released videos that appear to show Russian mercenaries buried near the Gossi military base in the north Mali as part of a smear campaign to falsely accuse French forces of leaving behind mass graves.

Not for the first time, it appears to be a case of Russian misdirection.

The Russians want the Malays to believe their former colonial owners are behind the death and devastation in the north. Mali but Daily Beast sources say the Russians are responsible. Three witnesses said that private Russian military contractors blindfolded local villagers and forced them to dig mass graves to hide evidence of their atrocities.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that foreign soldiers — believed to be Russian mercenaries from the infamous Wagner Corporation, run by one of President Putin’s closest associates, and their Malian associates executed the treaty. estimated 300 civilians in the village of Moura, central Malian at the end of March.

Three days after the NGO’s report was made public, the Russians returned to the crime scene in an attempt to conceal any evidence that might prove it massacred civilians, according to the Daily’s sources. Beast in the village.

On April 8, just two days after the United Nations asked the Malian authorities to grant unhindered access…so they could conduct a thorough investigation,” dozens of Russian mercenaries filmed. back to Moura, where they dragged a series of young men out of the area and raped them. 3 witnesses told The Daily Beast to bury the corpses scattered around town in mass graves.

The Russians, according to eyewitnesses, divided the villagers into about six groups of 10 to 15 people, blindfolded them, and then took them to different locations where the bodies were still lying on the ground.

“We walked for hours to get to an area near the dunes,” said 28-year-old Salif, who was part of a group of 15 villagers. “When they removed the veil, all I could see were corpses lying everywhere.”

The Daily Beast changed the names of the witnesses in the story to protect them from possible retribution.

When Salif’s group reached their location, the mercenaries divided them into units of less than five men, gave them shovels, and ordered them to dig three wide pits to bury the bodies.

“After digging and throwing the corpses we saw into the pit, we were ordered to walk more than two kilometers in search of more bodies,” Salif said. “I think we buried about 60 bodies just on our first day.”

In another development, another witness said a group of 13 people had arrived at what appeared to be a camp run by Russians. He said he and his colleagues buried more than 40 bodies in a single wide pit they were ordered to dig.

“They told us to burn the bodies before we covered the pit with sand.” Seydou, a 30-year-old livestock trader, told The Daily Beast. “Some of the victims had their hands tied behind their backs, which suggests that they were tortured before being killed.”

Warning: The image below contains a graphic scene.

This image is taken from a video showing soldiers burying bodies near an army base in northern Mali. The French military says it has video footage of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near a military base in northern Mali.

French Army via AP

In a large residential area, a witness told The Daily Beast that a group of 10 villagers who arrived with the Russians were ordered to pick up the dead bodies and bury them in two mass graves that the villagers themselves had dug. Among the dead, witnesses said, were women and children shot in the head.

Sadio, 31, who is also a livestock trader, said: ‘Some of the children seem to be as young as 5 years old. “I also saw the body of a woman who appeared to be pregnant.”

Some villagers said they spent days digging mass graves under the supervision of Russian mercenaries. While most groups spent two days completing their work, one witness said he and his colleagues were detained for six days – April 8-14 – and taken from site after site to dig graves and bury the dead before being released by the Russians.

“We were taken to about six locations, and everywhere we went, we dug at least two large graves,” says Sadio. “In some of the graves, we buried five people. In others, we bury up to 20″.

Witnesses said the bodies belonged to people who had been dead for more than four days at the end of last month. According to HRW, 19 witnesses from Moura and six other villages informed the organization that the soldiers arrived by helicopter near the cattle market on March 27 and exchanged guns for about 15 minutes with about 30 fighters. Islamic. More than 100 Russian warplanes along with Malian troops were then deployed to Moura for an operation that lasted until March 31.

“After besieging the area, soldiers patrolled the town, executing several men as they tried to flee and detaining hundreds of unarmed men from the market and home,” HRW said. their. “For four days, the soldiers ordered the detained men in groups of four, six or up to 10, to get up and walk for several tens to several hundred meters. There, the Malians and foreign soldiers executed them quickly. “

Locals later told The Daily Beast that hundreds of bodies were left in the village, some of them fragmented or burned beyond recognition.

“Have some [dead bodies] no head or arms,” a local policeman told The Daily Beast. “Our people were killed like chickens.”

In early April, Mali’s Defense Ministry released a statement claiming its army had killed 203 “terrorists” and arrested 51 others between March 23-31 in a raid. large-scale attack on the “terrorist grave” Moura. A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry congratulated Mali on an “important victory” against “terrorism” and smeared accusations of Russian mercenary involvement in the ensuing operation. All of that hasn’t stopped the United Nations from seeking to know more about what happened in Moura, although those efforts have been stymied by efforts by Malian authorities to prevent a prior investigation. United Nations disappointment.

UN spokesman Seif Magango: “We are deeply concerned that Malian authorities have not yet allowed UN human rights investigators access to the village of Moura. said in a statement. “Time is of the essence to ensure prompt and effective accountability and justice for victims.”

For now, efforts to cover up what happened in Moura last month may be ongoing. Witnesses said the Russians returned to the village early last week and arrested potential witnesses to the murders in March.

“They came to my compound in pickup trucks and ordered all the men out of their homes.” Samir, a young artist in Moura, told The Daily Beast. “Then they started picking young people who looked familiar to them and took them away.”

Since the incident, no one has heard of the arrestees, according to villagers who spoke to The Daily Beast. Villagers said that FACA soldiers then blocked the roads leading in and out of Moura so that no one could enter and no one could leave. Villagers were warned not to speak to anyone involved in the March incident.

An undated photo provided by the French military shows Russian mercenaries boarding a helicopter in northern Mali.

French Army via AP

For years, Moura – a village of about 10,000 inhabitants – has been under the control of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who have imposed strict Sharia law and taxed the population. the village. Islamic State in the Great Sahara (ISGS) jihadists are also present in the village and, like AQIM, have targeted Malian forces and found enemies in the village.

Last December, Mali’s military junta began deploy hundreds of mercenaries from Wagner Group, a private military company funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, after France announced its withdrawal from the resilient West African nation following a dispute between the military government and the Macron administration. At the beginning of this year, about 1,000 so-called Russian guides were sent to Mali. Since their arrival, reports of the group’s crimes have continued to expand.

The French military said it had transferred control of the military base to the Malian armed forces in what it said was done transparently last week.

As controversy continues over Wagner mercenary activities in Mali, opponents of their brutality have warned that no one can fathom the extent of atrocities the Russians have perpetrated in the country. are having this difficulty.

“When they [Russian mercenaries] Samir said. “They did terrible things that no one could find out.”

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