Mali’s government is investigating accusations by an opposition party that the army kidnapped and executed seven civilians.
The opposition SADI party accused the army of executing the men, who were attending a religious celebration in Nangarabakan in the Segou region on February 21. The victims included an imam and family members of the village chief, SADI said.
In a statement, government confirmed civilians were killed during a search and sweep operation in central Mali, ravaged by Islamist militants’ attacks and it ordered an investigation.
“Government expresses its condolences to the bereaved families and reiterates its determination to pursue operations … with strict respect for human rights rules and international humanitarian law,” the statement said.
Islamist groups seized control of Mali’s northern territories in 2012 before being driven back by a French-led military intervention. They regrouped and spread into the more populated centre of the country, winning recruits by playing on local grievances such as rights abuses by the army.
A report by campaign group Human Right Watch accused the Malian military of conducting extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, torture and arbitrary arrests against suspected sympathisers of jihadist groups.
The government acknowledged some abuses by its forces in the past but also rejects many allegations made by rights groups.
Islamist militants launch increasingly frequent attacks on civilians, Malian troops and UN peacekeepers in the centre of the country, expanding beyond their stronghold in the desert north.
Six Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a land mine near Dioura on Tuesday the army said in a statement, the latest in a series of mine attacks in the central Mopti region.
The army did not say who they believed to be responsible for planting the landmine.