Moscow hails Mali ‘victory’ after Moura operation

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Russia congratulated Mali Friday for a “key victory” against “terrorism” after an operation in Moura that Mali said killed 203 extremists, but which rights groups called a civilian massacre.

“The armed forces of Mali carried out a successful military operation, in which more than 200 [extremist] fighters were killed in the village of Moura,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We would like to congratulate Malians on this important victory in the fight against the terrorist threat.”

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The Russian foreign ministry dismissed as “disinformation” allegations that the operation led to a massacre of civilians in the central Mali village.

It also rubbished allegations of the involvement of Russian mercenaries, accusing the West of having “staged” a campaign aimed at “putting the emphasis on Moscow’s participation in war crimes.”

“We are not indifferent to the fate of the Malian people, we are bound by traditionally friendly relations with this country,” the statement said.

“We have helped our Malian friends and we will continue to do so.”

The Malian army and witnesses interviewed by the press and Human Rights Watch offered a drastically different version of the events in Moura between March 27 and 31.

Mali’s army says it “neutralized” 203 extremists in a major operation in the region which is the epicenter of extremist violence in the Sahel.

The interviewed witnesses reported a mass of summary executions of civilians, rapes and looting by Malian soldiers and foreign fighters believed to be Russians.

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