Mali’s army said Saturday that it had killed “a dozen terrorists” including a French-Tunisian jihadist in air strikes in the centre of the Sahel nation.
The armed forces carried out two strikes on Thursday “to neutralise a dozen terrorists in the forest of Ganguel” about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the village of Moura, the general staff said in a press release.
“These strikes made it possible to neutralise some cadres of the GSIM,” (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, the biggest jihadist alliance in the Sahel) it said, “including Samir Al-Burhan, a Franco-Tunisian terrorist cadre”.
The army said it acted on the basis of precise information regarding a “group of terrorists” it said had come “to boost the morale” of GSIM fighters and provide support to them after their “serious setback at Moura”.
Mali’s military-dominated government says it “neutralised” 203 jihadists in Moura at the end of March, but witnesses interviewed by media and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say soldiers actually killed scores of civilians with help from foreign fighters.
No photos or video to support either the Malian authorities’ or HRW’s account have emerged from Moura since then.
The UN mission in Mali has for days been asking in vain to be allowed to send a team of investigators to the area.
Ruled by a military junta since August 2020, Mali has been in a political crisis since 2012.
The spread of jihadists from the north of the vast, impoverished country has spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger and the conflict has become more complicated with emergence of local militias and criminal gangs.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes.