The United Nations said weekend it was investigating reports of serious human rights abuses, including the execution of civilians, in northern Mali following clashes this week between northern Tuareg separatist rebels and pro-government militia.
U.N.-brokered peace efforts in Mali’s north are in danger of unraveling because of repeated violations of a ceasefire between the Tuareg-led Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) and the pro-government factions around the flashpoint northern town of Menaka.
The clashes on Thursday killed at least six civilians, including a Malian aid worker, rebels and a local source said.
The U.N. mission in Mali said on Friday it had sent a team of investigators to verify reports of serious abuses and the execution of civilians, possibly including an aid worker in Tin-Hamma, in Gao region.
“These abuses followed as a result of the clashes on May 20 between members of the Platform (pro-government militia) and the Coordination of Movements of Azawad,” the mission said.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, a member of the CMA coalition, said in a statement that nine people including two who worked for international aid agencies were arrested by pro-government militia and executed. It added that several others were missing.
“The execution took place in public, at the town’s cattle market and the bodies were still exposed in the public square as of 1500 GMT (11.00 a.m. EDT),” MNLA said in the statement, listing the names of the nine.
The Malian government rejected accusations that its troops were involved in the abuses. It said in a statement late on Friday that Malian soldiers had intervened in Tin-Hamma to drive out insurgents who had killed three civilians in the attack.
“The government is surprised by the allegations of abuses on the population attributed to the armed forces following the events in Tin-Hamma,” it said. “The government rejects such accusations.”
The U.N. mission said it was concerned about an alarming escalation of fighting in several areas of northern Mali, which was in violation of the ceasefire and could jeopardize the peace deal.