Mali’s army killed 14 jihadist suspects trying to escape detention in its central region, the latest in a string of killings by the armed forces that have provoked condemnation from rights groups.
The military said in a statement the suspects were arrested in Dioura on April 5 and were killed the next day.
“Following an alleged attempt to escape, 14 terrorist suspects were killed on April 6 in Dioura,” the statement said. “The command has taken measures to shed light on this issue”.
The statement is likely to draw the attention of human rights groups which accuse the security forces of carrying out summary executions in their campaign to secure central Mali, plagued by violent Islamists and ethnic militias.
Amnesty International raised the alarm last week over reports six people found dead in a mass grave in the central Mopti region in March were arrested by the military three days earlier.
There has been a spate of killings and kidnappings ahead of a July presidential election which rights groups say are being conducted by the army against suspected sympathisers of jihadist groups. Government rejects the allegations.
The violence has raised doubts about whether Mali will be able to hold credible elections in less than three months.
Two Chadian peacekeepers were killed last Thursday and at least 10 others wounded when a UN camp came under mortar fire in the northern Kidal region, the country’s most volatile.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said such acts “only reinforce the commitment of the United Nations to support the people and government of Mali in their quest for peace”.
On Friday, a peacekeeper was killed when two armed men in Gao opened fire on his vehicle, the UN force said in a statement.
Unidentified gunmen killed one person and wounded at least two others last Wednesday in an attack on a hotel in Bandiagara frequented by UN staff and humanitarian agency workers.
Some 65 people have been killed in 2018 by improvised explosive devices, Amnesty International estimated last week.
Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania launched a G5 Sahel taskforce last year to tackle Islamist militants in the region.
France, its main Western backer, hopes the force will enable them to start drawing down the 4,000 or so troops it has in Mali since intervening to prevent Islamists and allied Tuareg rebels taking over the country in 2013.
International donors committed half a billion dollars to the force with Mali remaining heavily dependent on foreign firepower.
The French army said French and Malian troops killed about 30 Islamist insurgents during a gun battle near the border with Niger, where Islamic State’s Saharan affiliate is known to be active.