At least 20 killed in central Mali airstrike, witnesses say

At least 20 people have been killed in an airstrike on a village in central Mali where Islamic extremists had confronted a wedding party, witnesses said Tuesday.

The French military, which carries out operations against jihadist rebels operating in the region, declined to comment on the reported deaths and there was no immediate comment from the Malian government.

A man wounded in the strike told The Associated Press that the extremists had approached a group of civilians celebrating a wedding on Sunday, demanding that the men in attendance separate from the women.

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“We were in the process of carrying out the orders when I heard the sound of an airplane and immediately a strike from above. Afterward, I didn’t see anything because I was unconscious,” the man said from a health centre in Douentza, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

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Hamadoun Dicko, leader of one of the largest ethnic Peuhl organizations in Mali, said witnesses described two air raids on Jan. 3 in the village of Bouti.

“There were at least 20 dead and more than 27 missing. I have personally lost two friends,” said Dicko, president of the Tabital Pulaaku Youth Association.

Guillaume Nguefa, head of the human rights section of the U.N. mission in Mali confirmed the incident but did not provide more details.

© 2021 The Canadian Press