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France denies UN report that its airstrike in Mali killed 19 civilians

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
France denies UN report that its airstrike in Mali killed 19 civilians
Soldiers from the French Army holds detectors while searching for the presence of IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) during the Burkhane Operation in northern Burkina Faso on November 12, 2019. - Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in violence across the Sahel which began when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012. The conflict has since spread to the centre of Mali and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Attacks abound, despite the 4,500 French troops deployed in the region as part of Operation Barkhane. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

The French defence ministry has denied the findings of a UN investigation into an air strike in central Mali in January, which concluded that French aircraft had killed 19 civilians.

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In a statement on Tuesday, the ministry said it "maintains with consistency and reaffirms strongly" that "on January 3rd, French armed forces carried out an air strike targeting an armed terrorist group identified as such" near the village of Bounti in the west African country of Mali.

The statement added that the ministry had "numerous reservations about the methodology used" to carry out the UN probe.

As a result, Paris "cannot consider that this report provides any evidence whatsoever that contradicts the facts as described by the French armed forces," it said.

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Some residents of Bounti told journalists at the time that French warplanes had struck a wedding party near the remote village, and not a meeting of jihadists as claimed by France.

The United Nations mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, subsequently launched an investigation into the affair.

In a report summarising the investigation's findings, the UN on Tuesday said a wedding had in fact taken place and had "gathered about 100 civilians at the site of the strike".

It added that about five armed people, who are thought to be members of the jihadist group Katiba Serma, attended the celebrations.

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