Mali jihadist group claims to capture fighter

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Mali jihadist group claims to capture fighter

A jihadist group in Mali claims to have captured a fighter from the Kremlin-linked Wagner mercenary group fighting Islamist militants in the West African country.

In the first week of April, we captured a soldier of the Russian Wagner forces in the Segou region of central Mali, the GSIM the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, the group said in a statement sent to AFP overnight.

It is the first time that the GSIM, an Al Qaeda linked alliance and the biggest jihadist network in the Sahel, has announced the capture of a fighter with the Wagner group.

The US, France, and others say Russian militaries in Mali are operatives from the private security firm Wagner, which has also been accused of abuses in the Central African Republic.

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

The GSIM statement said these murderous forces participated with the Malian army in an airdrop operation in a village in Moura in which they confronted several mujahideen and killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Russian mercenaries fled the swathes of Mali, which were beyond government control due to the brutal conflict which began in 2012, before spreading to 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 fight against jihadists.

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

The junta promised to restore civilian rule but failed to meet an earlier commitment to the west African bloc Ecowas to stage elections in February this year, prompting regional sanctions.

Last month, the military dominated government in Bamako said it neutralised 203 jihadists in the central village of Moura, but witnesses interviewed by media and Human Rights Watch said scores of civilians were killed.

The UN s Minusma force has been asking the Malian authorities in vain to allow it to visit Moura to investigate the events.