1 February 2013

Mali: Hollande to Visit Timbuktu On Saturday

French President François Hollande is to visit Timbuktu on Saturday after three weeks of an offensive that has recaptured most of the north of Mali from Islamist militias.

Rights groups report a number of atrocities carried out by both sides in the war that has pitched Malian and French forces against Al Qaida-linked groups.

Hollande will be welcomed at Sévaré airport in central Mali by interim President Dioncounda Traoré and the two will go to Timbuktu where they will visit the historic Djingareyber mosque and the Ahmed Baba centre, which houses centuries-old manuscripts, some of which are reported to have been destroyed by the fundamentalists.

Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Development Minister Pascal Canfin will accompany the French president.

Rights group Amnesty International on Friday demanded that an inquiry be launched to establish who carried out an air raid that is alleged to have killed five civilians, including a woman and her three children, on the town of Konna on the first day of the French intervention.

The French military denies having carried out any such operation at the time indicated.

Amnesty also accused the Malian army of executing about 20 civilians in the north and Islamist groups of "arbitrary and deliberate homicides".

On Thursday Human Rights Watch accused the Malian army of at least 13 summary executions and "disappearing" five men in Sévaré and Konna. It charges the Islamists with the with the execution of at least seven Malian soldiers, five of them wounded. The army denies the accusations.

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