Mali’s army said Saturday that it had killed “a dozen terrorists” including a French-Tunisian jihadis in airstrikes in the center of the Sahel nation.
The armed forces carried out two strikes on Thursday “to neutralize a dozen terrorists in the forest of Ganguel” about 10 kilometers from the village of Moura, the general staff said in a press release.
“These strikes made it possible to neutralize some cadres of the GSIM,” (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims) the biggest jihadi alliance in the Sahel, it said, “including Samir Al-Burhan, a Franco-Tunisian terrorist cadre.”
The army said it acted on 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 “neutralized” 203 jihadis 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 the help of foreign fighters.
No photos or video to support either the account by Malian authorities or HRW have emerged from Moura since then.
The U.N. mission in Mali has for days been asking to be allowed to send a team of investigators to the area but without success.
Ruled by a military junta since August 2020, Mali has been in a political crisis since 2012.
The spread of jihadis from the north of the vast, impoverished country has spilled into neighboring 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.