Residents of towns in the center of Mali accuse the Malian armed forces of targeting civilians whom they suspect of being involved in rebel activities. The Fulani ethnic minority are said to be among those targeted.
As the Malian troops join battle with Islamic militants in the areas between the north held by Islamists and the southern part held by the central government, reports are surfacing of extrajudicial killings and other abuses. Even back in September of last year the Malian armed forces were guilty of treating citizens who looked in the least suspicious as enemies. A truck full of 18 preachers from Mauritania crossed the border at Diabaly on their way to the capital Bamako for a conference. None were armed and they had papers that indicated what their mission was. All were massacred by the troops manning the border checkpoint.
Recently, residents of Mopti in the center of Mali, said that the Malian army arrests, interrogates , and tortures some innocent civilians because the army thinks that they were involved in the rebellion. A woman who is a member of the Fulanii ethnic group said: A cousin of a victim said:"Because of that, 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 the 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 Minister of Justice, Malick Coulibaly, was rather blase when asked whether he thinks that Malian troops might be guilty of war crimes: "No army in the world is perfect. The US army is one of the most professional in the world, yet they have been found to have committed acts of torture and unlawful killings. That exists in all armies." War crimes just are collateral damage associated with armies it would seem as far as Coulibaly is concerned. At best, he is frank and his response is no doubt more honest than most authorities would provide.
Many Tuareg, who originally controlled the north, fled south when Islamists took over or even before to avoid the original conflict. Now the Tuareg are being singled out for reprisals. Amnesty International claims it has evidence of extrajudicial killings of Tuareg civilians, the indiscriminate shelling of a Tuareg camps, and killing of livestock.
Justice Minister Coulibaly admitted that there was a problem saying: "It's true that people feel very angry towards the Tuaregs, and we are concerned about that. We are looking into measures we can take after the war to repair these relations." To be fair there is also a great deal of evidence of crimes committed by rebels including rape and beheadings, as well as destroying historic religious sites.
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