France says mercenaries from Russian group Wagner staged

The French army says it has videos of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near a military base in northern Mali, which it says is part of a smear campaign against the French, who handed over the base de Gossi to Malian forces earlier this week.

Satellite images taken by the French military on Thursday morning show what appears to be 10 Caucasian soldiers covering around a dozen Malian bodies with sand 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) east of the Gossi military base in the north of the country, according to a French military officer.

In the video, one of the soldiers appears to be filming the scene. The Caucasian soldiers in the video are believed to be members of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary force, the officer said.

Several tweets with photos of the bodies were posted on accounts that support Russia or fake accounts created by Wagner, the officer said. The tweets blame the French for the murders and the burials, according to the French officer.

A tweet from an account called Dia Diarra, allegedly created by Wagner, said: “This is what the French left behind when they left #Gossi base. These are excerpts from a video that was taken after they left! We cannot remain silent about this!

The French army on Tuesday transferred control of the Gossi base to Malian soldiers, in a safe, orderly and transparent manner, according to the French. Later in the day, a “French sensor observed a dozen white individuals, most likely belonging to the Wagner group”, and a Malian army detachment arrived at the Gossi site and unloaded equipment, said the French army in a confidential report which was seen by PA.

00:36 “This is the first time that the French army has made public such a drone or surveillance possibly carried out by an aircraft,” terrorism expert Wassim Nasr told FRANCE 24. “We know that the 20 [of March]Wednesday afternoon, the French army saw these vehicles, these Chinese-made vehicles that are used by the Malian army, going in and out of the Gossi base which the French left on the 19th – and the same night they got pictures that show us […] that they were sleeping at the base.

“We see Malian soldiers sleeping outside and downstairs we see Russian soldiers – French say Wagner – sleeping in tents,” Nasr continued. “And the same evening at 10 p.m. we have the first tweet from a fake Twitter account […] which says ‘look at what we are going to show you; we will show you the massacre left by the French soldiers. […] Then yesterday, so Thursday, at 9:50 p.m., French surveillance means saw […] as they say, Wagner’s military throw sand on corpses next to the military installation.

The French military said the decision to discredit French forces operating in northern Mali was part of a coordinated campaign of multiple information attacks against them that has been going on for months.

In February, France announced it would withdraw its troops from Mali amid tensions with the ruling military junta and the West African country’s decision to employ Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group. A thousand Russian mercenaries are operating in Mali, according to military experts.

(FRANCE 24 with PA)

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