Mali: Over 200 militants killed in large raid, army says
Mali's armed forces on Friday said they killed more than 200 militants during an operation in March.
In a statement, the army said that a military operation between 23 and 31 March in the area around Moura, a village in central Mali, killed 203 combatants. They arrested 51 people and seized large quantities of weapons as well.
News outlets have not been able to independently verify the information because of a lack of access.
But the announcement comes as numerous social media reports in Mali alleged that dozens of people, including civilians, had been killed in Moura.
African leaders have sought help from the international community for years to fight jihadi terrorism in the western Sahel, an area that stretches across Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.
Senegal's President Macky Sall, currently the chairman of the African Union, told DW in February that Africa has been "pleading with the [UN] Security Council for the last 10 or 12 years to take greater responsibility" but they have not been able to rally support.
Situation deteriorates in Mali
Mali has seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warning the UN Security Council that Mali's counter-terrorism efforts had "disastrous consequences for the civilian population," AFP news agency reported.
The UN also said Friday that thousands fleeing fighting in Mali had arrived in Niger.
Mali's army said it was guided by human rights and international law in its statement on Friday, and called for "restraint against defamatory speculations."
A day earlier, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known by the acronym MINUSMA, said security had "deteriorated considerably" in the border area with Burkina Faso and Niger.
French and European troops withdraw
France and its European partners announced on February 17 that it would pull most of its troops from Mali by summer as political and security situation continued to deteriorate with repeated coups in the country.
French forces fought Islamic insurgents in Mali for nearly a decade, as the country remains a stronghold of both al-Qaida and Islamic State (IS) affiliated terrorist groups.
The announcement ended France's Barkhane counter-terrorism mission, which includes Canada, and the Takuba mission, where European special forces support Barkhane.
France said it would move operations to Niger instead.
While experts have expressed concerns about the uptick in violence as a result of the withdrawal, Germany has been under pressure to end its Mali operations too.
rm/jcg (Reuters, AFP)