French military operations in Mali face growing resistance
French military operation in Mali is losing support in the West African nation, following the loss of 19 civilian lives after French airstrikes targeted a wedding in early January.
The attacks were carried out by two French Mirage 2000 warplanes, part of France’s expansive military presence in the impoverished West African country, near the village of Bounti.
The French military mission, known as the Barkhane force, alleged that the strikes had followed many days of intelligence investigation. It, however, said the targets had been chosen no more than an hour before the strikes by a French Reaper drone.
The unmanned aerial vehicle identified the target after “detecting a motorcycle with two individuals” joining the larger group. The HRW, however, cited three Bounti residents as saying that they were men joining other males for the wedding, which was observing a gender segregation rule.
Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged Paris to fully and impartially investigate the attack.
“Serious allegations that any civilians were killed in airstrikes need to be promptly investigated to determine the legality of the strikes under the laws of war,” said Jonathan Pedneault, crisis and conflict researcher at the New York-based NGO.
The French mission that features some 5,000 forces began operating in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups.
Some observers have, however, cited suspicions about the actual goal sought by Paris inside the former colony, which boasts rich mineral reserves.
The military presence has, meanwhile, given rise to some anti-French sentiment. Last January, hundreds of people took to the streets in the capital Bamako to protest the foreign presence.