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Mali Accuses UN of 'Espionage'

FILE: Mali transitional leader Col Assimi Goita. taken August 17, 2022

DAKAR — Mali's ruling junta has asked prosecutors to probe the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission for "espionage" following a report which said hundreds of people were massacred last year by Malian troops and their allies.

On Tuesday, the Mali public prosecutor's office said a unit specializing in "terrorism and transnational crime" had received a complaint from the state over members of the MINUSMA mission.

The junta's complaint describes the MINUSMA members as "co-authors or accomplices in crimes, among others, of espionage, harming the morale of the army or air force, use of false documents and harming external state security," said the statement, which was dated Monday.

It also said the U.N. used satellites to gather information without government clearance - a technique, it said, that amounted to "espionage" and warranted investigation.

MINUSMA'S human rights division investigated events that unfolded in the central town of Moura between May 27-31, 2022.

According to a report published last month by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), at least 500 people were executed by the Malian army and "foreign" fighters.

The figures cited by the OHCHR amount to the worst atrocity Mali has experienced since a jihadist insurgency flared in 2012.

It was also the most damning document yet against Mali's armed forces and their allies.

The nationality of the foreigners was not explicitly identified in the report, but Mali has brought in Russian paramilitaries that Western countries and others say are Wagner Group mercenaries.

The junta on May 14 savaged the report as "fictitious" and said the only dead were "terrorist fighters," a term typically used to described jihadists.

The accusation accelerates a downward spiral between the junta and the MINUSMA, or the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.

Mali on Friday called on the U.N. Security Council to withdraw the 15,000 peacekeepers immediately, denouncing the "failure" of the 10-year-old mission to meet security challenges. MINUSMA's mandate expires on June 30.

The state has been ruled by the military since 2020, when its elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was swept aside by army officers angered at his inability to roll back the jihadist insurgency.

The junta then forged an alliance with the Kremlin, prompting France, the country's traditional ally, to withdraw its troops after Russian personnel moved in.