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UN demands Mali allow peacekeepers into town where 300 died

AP – The top United Nations (UN) envoy in Mali demanded on Thursday that the country’s military leaders allow UN peacekeepers to visit a town where Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Malian army and foreign soldiers recently killed an estimated 300 men, one of several alleged rights abuses denounced by the UN, Britain and France.

According to HRW, the killings in Moura were the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s 10-year conflict against extremists.

UN Special Representative El-Ghassim Wane told the UN Security Council that the government asserted in an April 1 communique that “it had neutralised scores of terrorist elements” in the Moura area in central Mali south of Mopti.

But he said the UN peacekeeping mission known as MINUSMA received reports “of serious human rights abuses committed against large numbers of civilians during this operation”.

It sought access to the area which has so far been denied, except for a reconnaissance flight on April 3, he said. France’s UN Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere cited reports of human rights violations in Moura by elements of the Malian armed forces that could constitute war crimes.

He called for national and international investigations to be opened quickly and for MINUSMA to conduct its own unhindered investigation to establish the facts and report to the Security Council.

Mali has struggled to contain an extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks on the Malian army and its allies.

Insecurity has worsened with attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers.

Wane, the UN envoy, painted a grim picture of the last three months, not only on the security front but telling the Security Council there was “no tangible progress” in the peace process.