Mali: French army claims killing terrorists while local association spoke of civilians in a wedding

Several people were killed on Sunday 3 January in central Mali, with the French army claiming on Tuesday to have beaten dozens of jihadists, while villagers and a local association spoke of civilians hit by an unidentified device at a wedding.
Since Sunday, messages have been proliferating on social networks about events in the village of Bounti. It was therefore necessary for the French military authorities to give more details.
The French general staff admits that the Barkhane force did carry out an operation in the region of Douentza, not far from the village of Bounti on Sunday 3 January. At around 3 pm, after a long spotting manoeuvre, soldiers guided a Mirage 2000 patrol whose firing neutralized several dozen terrorists.
But the general staff is clear: the account of a bombing on a wedding party in Bounti does not correspond in any way to the observations made by the Barkhane force. Targeting is a perfectly controlled operation, well established, no mistake is possible, the authorities hammered.
The objective had even been identified for several days in an area characterized by the proven presence of terrorist groups, says the French army, before specifying that no helicopter intervened during this operation.
However, villagers from Bounti contacted by Agence France-Presse say they were hit by helicopter fire during a wedding. There are reportedly 19 dead, including children, they say. Colleagues journalists have confirmed that some women and children from Bounti are currently being treated in Douentza. Other victims, some of whom have been evacuated to Sévaré, 150 kilometers south-west of Douentza. Others have succumbed to their injuries.
According to the youth organisation Tabital Pulakuu, an association that promotes Peulh culture, the bombing hit a wedding celebrated in Bounti. The testimonies collected by our source in Douentza speak of helicopters firing from a very low altitude.
For the moment, however, it is difficult to know what really happened on Sunday afternoon in this remote area of the Malian Gourma. Today, the situation is still very confusing. In the past, Operation Barkhane has already been in a similar position. It was in 2017, after a bombing in Abeibara, in the north-east of the country, where Malian soldiers were held hostage by jihadists. At the time, the general staff had unequivocally stated that it was a terrorist training camp.

About Geraldine Boechat 2242 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia