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Northern Mali faces fear of retaliation after insurgents driven away

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As French and Chadian troops forced Islamist insurgents throughout much of Northern Mali, the people there now fear of retaliation. There has been a growing evidence of reprisal killings and raids targeting Tuareg and Arabs based on their ethnicity. Communities now dread collective punishment by al-Qaeda based rebels.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The International Federation for Human Rights says it has confirmed at least 11 executions, and is investigating dozens of other cases. Victims suspected of being supporters or members of the armed groups were found killed in the garrison town of Sevare on January 9 and 10, Florent Geel, head of the Africa desk says.

At least three of the victims were killed inside the military base, while others were killed in a hospital and at a bus stop. Also confirmed were two Tuareg men executed in the central town of Niono.

An eyewitness reported that the two men were taken from their homes at around midday on January 18 and executed shortly afterwards. The killers were wearing Mali army uniforms and driving military vehicles, according to the witness.

"This appears to be a targeted killing by security forces," Tirana Hassan, an emergency researcher for Human rights Watch told Al Jazeera.

Tuareg and Arab civilians say they are now terrified of being hunted down as their community suffers collective punishment for its perceived support for the armed groups, Hassan says. "There's a history of reprisals."

Large numbers of Tuareg in the army have defected in recent years, many of them accused of being spies for the Liberation Army of Azawad. Authorities have set up a hotline where anyone can inform on people they believe are acting "suspiciously."

While there may be genuine cases of infiltration, the authorities needed to respect human rights principles in the way they treated any suspects. "The nature of this war is asymmetric, with civilians who look like fighters and fighters who look like civilians," Geel said.

"Don't ask me about the dead. I'm concerned with the living," Colonel Diaran Kone, head of the Malian military's press office told Al Jazeera.

Kone dismissed concerns that given the nature of guerrilla warfare that armed forces might have trouble distinguishing civilians from members of the armed groups.

"We only have one enemy [here in Mali]; terrorists and terrorism," he said. "As long as a single terrorist is alive, humanity will not be happy. That means eliminating all terrorists and all forms of terrorism."

The French military are not currently giving interviews in Bamako and were unavailable for comment.

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