Mali: UN Confirms French Airstrike Killed Civilians
In a statement released late Tuesday, the UN peacekeeping mission said the airstrike by French forces in the village of Bounty killed largely civilians.
The United Nations has made public its findings on the French air strike that killed 19 civilians and three armed men at a wedding in the Malian village of Bounty. The day after the attack, a UN peacekeeping Mission (MINUSMA) fact finding team, made up of 15 human rights officers, and supported by two UN forensics experts and two public information officers, was deployed to investigate the strike, and shed light on the allegations surrounding the deaths.
As part of their investigation, the team organized at least 115 face-to-face interviews, spoke to at least 200 people during group meetings, and carried out more than a hundred telephone interviews. The experts also studied at least 150 documents, including official statements and news articles, as well as photographs and videos related to the Bounty strike.
On 25 January, with the support and air cover of the MINUSMA force, the team travelled to Bounty and visited the location of the airstrike, and the alleged burial site of those killed. From its investigation it emerged that a wedding had effectively taken place, there had been about 100 civilians at the site of the strike, about five armed people, presumed to be members of a jihadist group affiliated to al-Qaeda also attending the celebrations were killed by the Barkhane French military Force on January 3, 2021in Bounty. 19 were directly affected by the strike, including 16 civilians, while the other three civilians died of their injuries during their transfer for emergency treatment. At least eight other civilians were injured in the strike. The victims are all men aged 23 to 71, the majority of whom lived in the village of Bounty. AFP news agency quoted the UN report as saying.
Reacting to the report, France's defence ministry said it had "numerous reservations about the methodology used" by UN investigators. It "maintains with consistency and reaffirms strongly" that the air strike targeted an "armed terrorist group", the ministry added. The UN investigation was carried out by the human rights division of its mission in Mali, Reuters news agency reports.