Malian troops may have carried out summary executions during the offensive against Islamist rebels, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RFI Wednesday. Human rights groups say that atrocities have been perpetrated in several towns as the joint French-Malian operation heads north.
Le Drian admitted that the reports could be true in a broadcast by RFI along with France 24 TV and l'Express magazine, adding that President François Hollande "is counting on the sense of responsibility of the command of the Malian army to avoid any exactions".
France Human Rights League on Wednesday said it had evidence that of summary executions by Malian soldiers in towns including Sévaré, Mopti and Nioro, while US-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday said it had credible information of murders and other atrocities in Niono.
The victims are said to range from alleged jihadi collaborators to people of "light-skinned" ethnic groups.
"Every white skin is not a terrorist or jihadi," Malian Chief of Staff General Ibrahima Dahirou told RFI on Tuesday in response to charges that Tuaregs have been murdered by soldiers or pro-government militias.
He promised that any soldier committing atrocities would be court-martialled.
Le Drian also welcomed decisions by Algeria and Mauritania to tighten control of their frontiers.
France now has 2,300 soldiers in Mali and reinforcements continue to arrive, the defence ministry announced Wednesday.