The drama takes place in central Mali, near Douentza. A desert area, almost 800 kilometers from Bamako, and dangerous, held by jihadist groups and plagued by conflicts between ethnic groups. It is a local association for the defense of Fulani culture, Tabital Pulakuu, who is the first to report the facts. Before an avalanche of testimonials on social networks. Accounts – rarely firsthand – tell of two airstrikes happening on Sunday in the middle of a wedding.
– maliactu (@maliactu) January 5, 2021
About twenty people are killed, including children. The bodies, some of which are no longer identifiable, are hastily piled into a mass grave. Wounded are amputated and taken care of by the Spanish branch of Doctors Without Borders.
Some Malians speak of planes, others of helicopters, but all are categorical: they were civilians, not a gathering of jihadists. Minusma, the United Nations force, assures us that it is not involved. So who is behind this strike and why? Only the Malian army and the French army operate in this area.
The staff of the French army remained silent for several days before recognizing Tuesday, January 5 that two fighter planes of the Barkhane force, two Mirage 2000, did indeed conduct a raid on the same day in the same sector. But that they targeted a gathering of jihadists, individuals spotted after a long intelligence work, reinforced by the sending of a drone before and after the strike. Several dozen of them were killed, the soldiers are categorical. There was no marriage.
The Malian authorities, for their part, remain silent. A senior officer of the General Staff cited anonymously by a local newspaper, however, ensures that no army aircraft flew over the area that day. And that the current anti-terrorist operations do not concern the Douentza sector.
– aBamako (@aBamako) January 6, 2021
All hypotheses are therefore possible, including that of two different events taking place at approximately the same time. The Fulani association invites the international community to “open an investigation”.
This event takes place in a deteriorating security context: villainous acts, massacres, reprisals against what remains of the Malian state, attacks against the military. France has just lost five soldiers killed by improvised devices which exploded under their vehicle. The violence took on a communal character, particularly between the Dogons and the Peuls, nomadic Muslims often suspected of colluding with the jihadists.
The line is sometimes blurred, especially among young people, who enlist in radical armed groups affiliated with Al Qaeda, such as the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on two soldiers. French Saturday January 2. And who was designated by Force Commander Barkhane as “the most dangerous enemy in the Sahel”, with which Malians assess the possibility of organizing talks. In recent weeks, clashes have also taken place between this terrorist group and those affiliated with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel (EIGS).
To avoid getting bogged down in the face of this unmanageable war, France, which has about 5,100 men in the Sahel, is considering reducing its military presence. A first withdrawal could be announced in February at a summit in N’Djamena, Chad, which will bring together France and its G5 Sahel partners (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad), created in 2017.