Mali: Rights Groups Report Russian Wagner Mercenaries Assisting Army in Civilian Casualties

Human rights reports this week disclose the involvement of the Russian private military group Wagner in aiding government forces in central and northern Mali, conducting raids and drone strikes resulting in numerous civilian casualties, including children.

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have grappled with insurgencies led by jihadist groups for over a decade, some aligned with al-Qaida and the Islamic State. After recent military coups, ruling authorities expelled French troops, turning to Russian mercenaries for security. Violence escalated in Mali following the arrival of Russian mercenaries after a 2021 coup, with the junta intensifying operations, including deadly drone strikes and raids causing civilian deaths. Despite the death of Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in a suspicious plane crash last year, Russia’s presence in Mali remains unchanged.

Ilaria Allegrozzi, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, criticized Mali’s Russia-backed transitional military government for egregious abuses and attempts to evade scrutiny. Instances include a January raid near a military base resulting in the arbitrary arrest of 25 individuals, later found dead with gunshot wounds. Amnesty International reported two drone strikes in northern Mali, killing at least 13 civilians, including seven children, with one pregnant woman miscarrying due to injuries. Human Rights Watch highlighted Turkish-supplied drones’ precision capabilities and documented civilian casualties from drone strikes, including an attack during a wedding in central Mali.

The ruling juntas of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso recently announced a joint security force to combat escalating extremist violence, pivoting away from dissenting partners to rely on Russian security assistance. Despite promises to quell insurgencies after overthrowing elected governments, violence has intensified under military regimes, exacerbated by overstretched security forces combating jihadist threats across shared borders.

About Geraldine Boechat 2680 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia