6 killed in attack on EU-funded anti-terror force in Mali implicated in ‘summary executions’

6 killed in attack on EU-funded anti-terror force in Mali implicated in ‘summary executions’
At least six soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing of the G5 Sahel anti-terrorist force in Mali. The attack came just days after the UN accused the force of the “summary and arbitrary execution” of civilians.

A suicide bomber exploded a vehicle in front of the G5 Sahel joint task force compound in Mali’s central town of Sevare on Friday. The explosion was followed by an attack from militants.

“The attackers fired rockets at the headquarters and some of them infiltrated the compound. There was an exchange of fire,” Mali’s defense ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo told Reuters.

At least six soldiers were killed by the attackers, according to the mayor of the nearby town of Mopti. Many others were reportedly injured during the incident. The attack has been reportedly claimed by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Mali. It remained unclear whether the assailants sustained any casualties.

Photos from the scene show heavily damaged buildings inside the compound and a large hole left by the suicide bomber. The explosion was apparently quite powerful, as the bent and scorched frame of the suicide vehicle was blown meters away from its crater. The suicide vehicle was painted in the UN colors and therefore managed to get close to the compound, AFP reported, citing a military source.

G5 Sahel consists of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Friday’s attack comes just three days ahead of a scheduled meeting between the group’s leaders and French President Emmanuel Macron, to discuss the progress made by the joint task force in fighting terrorism in the region.

Earlier this week, the UN peacemaking mission to Mali (MINUSMA), accused Malian troops with the task force of the extrajudicial killing of 12 civilians.

“The MINUSMA investigation concluded that, on 19 May, elements of the Malian battalion ... summarily and/or arbitrarily executed 12 civilians at the Boulkessy cattle market,” the UN mission said in a statement, adding that it had forwarded its findings to the government in Bamako.

Mali’s government acknowledged last week that some of its soldiers were implicated in “gross violations” against the civilian population. The admission followed local media reports of at least 25 bodies found in a mass grave in central Mali.

The Defense Ministry confirmed “the existence of mass graves implicating certain persons in FAMA [Malian armed forces] in gross violations that caused deaths in Nantaka and Kobaka in the region of Mopti,” it said in a statement, promising to launch an inquiry into the killings.

The G5 Sahel was launched back in 2014 to improve cooperation and tighten up security in the region. The vast Sahel region has been in turmoil since 2011, after a NATO intervention helped overthrow the government in Libya. The resulting chaos fostered the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of the Boko Haram terrorist group in northern Nigeria.

The group’s joint anti-terrorist force was established last July, getting endorsement from the African Union and UN recognition through a resolution sponsored by France. The force, consisting of 5,000 troops at full operational capacity, received money from the EU but ran into financial issues this earlier this year, as the US opposed direct funding by the UN.

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