Mali:Russia's Wagner group loses a fighter to Jihadists

A jihadist group in Mali claims to have actually caught a fighter from the Kremlin-linked Wagner mercenary group reportedly fighting Islamist militants in the west African nation.

"In the first week of April, [we] recorded a soldier of the Russian Wagner forces in the Segou region in central Mali," the GSIM (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims) said in a declaration sent out to AFP overnight.

It is the very first time the GSIM, an al-Qaida-linked alliance and the most significant jihadist network in the Sahel, has actually revealed the capture of a fighter with the Wagner group.

The US, France and others say Russian paramilitaries in Mali are operatives from the personal security company Wagner, which has also been implicated of abuses in the Central African Republic.

Mali's military-dominated government has denied the accusations and said the Russians in the country were military instructors.

The GSIM statement stated "these murderous forces took part with the Malian army in an airdrop operation on a market in the village of Moura, where they faced a number of mujahideen prior to surrounding this area for five days and killing hundreds of innocent civilians".

The Russian mercenaries also performed 2 parachute operations in main Mali, claimed the jihadist group, which stated its fighters had confiscated weapons "from the mercenaries who ran away".

Huge swathes of Mali lie beyond government control due to the brutal dispute, which began in 2012 before infecting neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France, which intervened in Mali in 2013, decided in February to withdraw its forces from the country after a decade-long battle against jihadists.

The Sahel country is led by a military junta that took power in a coup in 2020.

The junta at first assured to restore civilian rule, but it failed to meet an earlier commitment to west African bloc Ecowas to phase elections in February this year, triggering local sanctions.

Last month, the military-dominated government in Bamako said it "neutralised" 203 jihadists in the main village of Moura, however witnesses talked to by media and Human Rights Watch state ratings of civilians were killed.

The UN's Minusma force has been asking the Malian authorities fruitless to allow it to check out Moura to examine the events.

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