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Mali accuses France of spying

April 27, 2022

Malian officials said France illegally flew a drone over a military base after the French army released a video it said showed Russian mercenaries burying bodies at a mass grave.

French soldier watching over the Menaka camp in Mali
France released the video footage after departing a base in Mali Image: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Mali's military junta accused France's military of spying on Tuesday, after the French military released a video of what it alleged were Russian mercenaries burying bodies at a grave in northern Mali last week.

France said it filmed the video near the Gossi military base in northern Mali and accused Russian-linked mercenaries of playing a role in a coordinated campaign to smear departing French soldiers.

Mali blames France for flying drones illegally

Mali's junta said in a statement Tuesday that France flew the drone "illegally" over the military base on April 20, the day after French forces handed over the base to Malian authorities.

French military said it released the footage to show that Mali's military government and Russian mercenaries were trying to claim the French of committed grievous crimes.

Mali's ruling junta said it discovered the mass grave near the Gossi base a day after the French released the footage, and has ordered an inquiry into it.

"The said a drone was present…to spy on our brave FAMa (Malian Armed Forces)," government spokesman Abdoulaye Maiga said.

"In addition to the spying, French forces were guilty of subversion by publishing false images worked up to accuse the FAMa of responsibility of killing civilians, with the aim of tarnishing their image," Maiga added.

Relations sour between France and Mali

Relations between Paris and Bamako soured after the Malian military seized power in a coup in 2020, with the French accusing the leaders of reneging on several agreements.

Ultimately, France said it was winding down operations in Mali with European partners this February and pull troops by the summer.

Mali has been dealing with an insurgence of Islamist militancy for years, and thousands of people have been killed and forced to flee their homes. 

Macron: France doesn't share 'strategy and hidden aims' of Mali's ruling junta

AFP material contributed to this report

Roshni Majumdar Roshni is a writer at DW's online breaking news desk and covers stories from around the world.@RoshniMaj