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

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.

France denies UN report that its airstrike in Mali killed 19 civilians
Illustration photo - French troops deployed in Mali. Photo Michele Cassini/AFP

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.

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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POLITICS

French locals urge Macron to eject mayor over child sexual images

A group of villagers in eastern France said on Friday they have asked President Emmanuel Macron to remove their mayor, who refuses to resign despite an investigation into allegations he accessed child sexual images.

French locals urge Macron to eject mayor over child sexual images

Dominique Lott, mayor of the Echenon municipality home to around 800 people, was one of 48 men arrested in mid-November raids across France.

He has acknowledged “some of the acts of which he is accused” ahead of his April trial, Dijon prosecutors said when he was detained.

They added that he possessed “images and videos depicting minors aged five to 15 in suggestive poses, or engaging in sex acts with each other or with adults”.

But the mayor is not required to resign by law, stoking anger among villagers.

By Friday, a petition demanding he step down had gathered almost 600 signatures.

National politicians Adrien Quatennens — an MP accused of striking his wife — and Julien Bayou — the Greens chief who stepped down over accusations of “psychological violence” against a former partner — had quit, so “why not our mayor?”, the signatories asked.

“Only two” village councillors out of 14 have stepped down in protest, said local resident and mother of an eight-month-old boy, Wardia Haya-Cartaut, one of the authors of the letter to Macron.

For its part, the local council said in a statement that “the justice system will take care of the trial, that’s not up to us”.

“Legally speaking, we have no room for manoeuvre,” the council added.

But Haya-Cartaut quotes chapter and verse from the legal code on local government, which allows the French president to recall a mayor.

“Without disrespecting the principle of presumption of innocence, it is in your power to issue a disciplinary measure,” she wrote to Macron alongside two other local mothers.

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