French army accuses Russian mercenaries of smear campaign in Mali

·2-min read

The French military says it has filmed Russian mercenaries burying bodies near a military base in northern Mali and alleges it is part of a smear campaign to accuse France's departing forces of leaving behind mass graves.

The French army says there is a coordinated attempt to discredit the Barkhane force which handed the Gossi base in northern Mali over to Malian forces earlier this week.

It comes after a Twitter account, using the name Dia Diarra, posted images of pixelated corpses buried in sand and then accused France of atrocities.

"This is what the French left behind them when they left the base in #Gossi... We cannot keep silent!" the account wrote in a tweet published on Thursday.

Damning video

But a video, filmed by the French army with a drone on Thursday, and seen by RFI, shows what appear to be Caucasian soldiers covering around a dozen bodies with sand around 4 kilometres from the Gossi base.

The video shows two men filming the scene and Dongfeng vehicles which Wagner – a private Russian mercenary group – uses to move around the area.

France's general staff called the Twitter video an "information attack" and said the profile was "very probably a fake account created by Wagner".

France's army said comparing the photos published on Twitter against images taken by a special sensor allows them to "draw a direct line" between Wagner's activities and what has been falsely attributed to French soldiers.

"This manoeuvre to discredit the Barkhane force seems coordinated. It is representative of multiple information attacks French soldiers have faced for several months," it said.

France and the United States have accused Wagner mercenaries of deploying in Mali as Paris winds down its almost decade-long Barkhane military operation in the West African country.

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

France officially handed control of the Gossi base to the Malian army on Tuesday as part of its withdrawal announced in February.

The French general staff warned about information warfare following the retrocession of the base, which hosted 300 French soldiers.

(with wires)

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