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Mali: Families of hostages allegedly killed in French airstrike speak out07:03

Mali: Families of hostages allegedly killed in French airstrike speak out

Mali, Abeibara
January 22, 2018 at 07:09 GMT -00:00 · Published

More than two months after the French airstrike in Abeibara in late October that allegedly killed 11 Malian soldiers held hostage by militants, families of the hostages are still struggling to find out the truth.

When Ruptly cameras reached the family of missing hostage Boubacar Kante in Markala in December, his uncle, mother and the second wife of his father, stated that they had received no information since the day of the French airstrike. After being initially notified that Kante may have died, they were informed that the information was not correct.

On October 1, 2017, militant group Jamaah Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) published a video named 'Appeal of the detainees,' featuring 11 Malian soldiers held in captivity by the Islamist group. The detainees called on the Malian people, the Malian government and in particular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for help in finding a solution. "We call on each and every one of the Malian people for help in order to bring us out of this crisis," they said.

In the video, each prisoner gave a short testimony, mentioning their rank, name, service number, and also the date and location of their capture. Among them was Boubacar Kante, who was kidnapped on July 16, during an attack on the Nampala outpost by militants. The Malian government did not make an official response to the appeal.

On July 26 of the same month, JNIM communicated that all the hostages in their hands had been killed in an airstrike in the locality of Abeibara. A few hours later, the French Ministry of Defence confirmed the airstrike but denied the presence of any civilians or hostages at the site of the attack. The French MoD labelled allegations that there were hostages in the vicinity, "propaganda coming from an armed terrorist group." The area is currently under the control of troops involved in Operation Barkhane, an ongoing military operation that has more than 3,000 French troops deployed in five former French colonies that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. French President Emmanuel Macron recently re-committed France to the operation and paid a personal visit to troops on the ground.

In an official statement on October 31, the Malian Ministry of Defence stated that the hostages were struck in the airstrike but the state also said that their presence was not known in the preparation phase of the airstrike. JNIM released another statement on November 1, in which they stated: "in response to the French lies, we are ready to provide the bodies to prove their identities."

In the following days, Malian and French authorities made several contradictory statements, that included one by the French Minister of Defence, who said in an interview with RFI on November 15, that "this French raid was a raid to neutralise a terrorist camp. We had identified, even before this operation, very accurately, on the basis of information, as we always do, the existence of a terrorist camp." In an attempt to put an end to the debate, the President of Mali Ibrahim Boubakar Keita released an interview to the magazine Jeunes Afrique on December 3, stating that "they were indeed hostages of terrorists and there should not be any ambiguity between our French friends and us (...) It is an unfortunate fact, which unfortunately can occur in this type of operation. We must admit it and not look for other reasons that do not exist."

Mali's Defence Ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo on Wednesday branded the claims of collaboration an insult. "At some point a specific media wanted to justify that the 11 Malian hostages that where at this site had joined the jihadi movement. We consider that to be an insult to the memory of these men that lost their lives in service of the nation."

On the reason why families of the hostages are left without information, in an interview with Ruptly, he added: "Because as you understand after an aerial strike the body is sufficiently disfigured making it difficult to identify it immediately, we have to go through several scientific procedures to be able to determine the identity of that person, it's a process still ongoing." Although he also added that " from images that we received we recognised five of our soldiers that were taken hostages during terrorists attack in Boulikessi and we understood that Mali had 11 hostages and there were 11 hostages found on this site, and all of them lost their lives during this operation."

Mali: Families of hostages allegedly killed in French airstrike speak out07:03
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Description

More than two months after the French airstrike in Abeibara in late October that allegedly killed 11 Malian soldiers held hostage by militants, families of the hostages are still struggling to find out the truth.

When Ruptly cameras reached the family of missing hostage Boubacar Kante in Markala in December, his uncle, mother and the second wife of his father, stated that they had received no information since the day of the French airstrike. After being initially notified that Kante may have died, they were informed that the information was not correct.

On October 1, 2017, militant group Jamaah Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) published a video named 'Appeal of the detainees,' featuring 11 Malian soldiers held in captivity by the Islamist group. The detainees called on the Malian people, the Malian government and in particular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for help in finding a solution. "We call on each and every one of the Malian people for help in order to bring us out of this crisis," they said.

In the video, each prisoner gave a short testimony, mentioning their rank, name, service number, and also the date and location of their capture. Among them was Boubacar Kante, who was kidnapped on July 16, during an attack on the Nampala outpost by militants. The Malian government did not make an official response to the appeal.

On July 26 of the same month, JNIM communicated that all the hostages in their hands had been killed in an airstrike in the locality of Abeibara. A few hours later, the French Ministry of Defence confirmed the airstrike but denied the presence of any civilians or hostages at the site of the attack. The French MoD labelled allegations that there were hostages in the vicinity, "propaganda coming from an armed terrorist group." The area is currently under the control of troops involved in Operation Barkhane, an ongoing military operation that has more than 3,000 French troops deployed in five former French colonies that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. French President Emmanuel Macron recently re-committed France to the operation and paid a personal visit to troops on the ground.

In an official statement on October 31, the Malian Ministry of Defence stated that the hostages were struck in the airstrike but the state also said that their presence was not known in the preparation phase of the airstrike. JNIM released another statement on November 1, in which they stated: "in response to the French lies, we are ready to provide the bodies to prove their identities."

In the following days, Malian and French authorities made several contradictory statements, that included one by the French Minister of Defence, who said in an interview with RFI on November 15, that "this French raid was a raid to neutralise a terrorist camp. We had identified, even before this operation, very accurately, on the basis of information, as we always do, the existence of a terrorist camp." In an attempt to put an end to the debate, the President of Mali Ibrahim Boubakar Keita released an interview to the magazine Jeunes Afrique on December 3, stating that "they were indeed hostages of terrorists and there should not be any ambiguity between our French friends and us (...) It is an unfortunate fact, which unfortunately can occur in this type of operation. We must admit it and not look for other reasons that do not exist."

Mali's Defence Ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo on Wednesday branded the claims of collaboration an insult. "At some point a specific media wanted to justify that the 11 Malian hostages that where at this site had joined the jihadi movement. We consider that to be an insult to the memory of these men that lost their lives in service of the nation."

On the reason why families of the hostages are left without information, in an interview with Ruptly, he added: "Because as you understand after an aerial strike the body is sufficiently disfigured making it difficult to identify it immediately, we have to go through several scientific procedures to be able to determine the identity of that person, it's a process still ongoing." Although he also added that " from images that we received we recognised five of our soldiers that were taken hostages during terrorists attack in Boulikessi and we understood that Mali had 11 hostages and there were 11 hostages found on this site, and all of them lost their lives during this operation."

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