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07:03

Mali: Families of hostages allegedly killed in French airstrike speak out

Mali, Abeibara
January 22, 2018 at 07:09 GMT +00:00 · Published

More than two months after the French airstrike in Abeibara in late October that allegedly killed 11 Malian soldiers held hostage by militants, families of the hostages are still struggling to find out the truth.

When Ruptly cameras reached the family of missing hostage Boubacar Kante in Markala in December, his uncle, mother and the second wife of his father, stated that they had received no information since the day of the French airstrike. After being initially notified that Kante may have died, they were informed that the information was not correct.

On October 1, 2017, militant group Jamaah Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) published a video named 'Appeal of the detainees,' featuring 11 Malian soldiers held in captivity by the Islamist group. The detainees called on the Malian people, the Malian government and in particular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for help in finding a solution. "We call on each and every one of the Malian people for help in order to bring us out of this crisis," they said.

In the video, each prisoner gave a short testimony, mentioning their rank, name, service number, and also the date and location of their capture. Among them was Boubacar Kante, who was kidnapped on July 16, during an attack on the Nampala outpost by militants. The Malian government did not make an official response to the appeal.

On July 26 of the same month, JNIM communicated that all the hostages in their hands had been killed in an airstrike in the locality of Abeibara. A few hours later, the French Ministry of Defence confirmed the airstrike but denied the presence of any civilians or hostages at the site of the attack. The French MoD labelled allegations that there were hostages in the vicinity, "propaganda coming from an armed terrorist group." The area is currently under the control of troops involved in Operation Barkhane, an ongoing military operation that has more than 3,000 French troops deployed in five former French colonies that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. French President Emmanuel Macron recently re-committed France to the operation and paid a personal visit to troops on the ground.

In an official statement on October 31, the Malian Ministry of Defence stated that the hostages were struck in the airstrike but the state also said that their presence was not known in the preparation phase of the airstrike. JNIM released another statement on November 1, in which they stated: "in response to the French lies, we are ready to provide the bodies to prove their identities."

In the following days, Malian and French authorities made several contradictory statements, that included one by the French Minister of Defence, who said in an interview with RFI on November 15, that "this French raid was a raid to neutralise a terrorist camp. We had identified, even before this operation, very accurately, on the basis of information, as we always do, the existence of a terrorist camp." In an attempt to put an end to the debate, the President of Mali Ibrahim Boubakar Keita released an interview to the magazine Jeunes Afrique on December 3, stating that "they were indeed hostages of terrorists and there should not be any ambiguity between our French friends and us (...) It is an unfortunate fact, which unfortunately can occur in this type of operation. We must admit it and not look for other reasons that do not exist."

Mali's Defence Ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo on Wednesday branded the claims of collaboration an insult. "At some point a specific media wanted to justify that the 11 Malian hostages that where at this site had joined the jihadi movement. We consider that to be an insult to the memory of these men that lost their lives in service of the nation."

On the reason why families of the hostages are left without information, in an interview with Ruptly, he added: "Because as you understand after an aerial strike the body is sufficiently disfigured making it difficult to identify it immediately, we have to go through several scientific procedures to be able to determine the identity of that person, it's a process still ongoing." Although he also added that " from images that we received we recognised five of our soldiers that were taken hostages during terrorists attack in Boulikessi and we understood that Mali had 11 hostages and there were 11 hostages found on this site, and all of them lost their lives during this operation."

07:03
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Description

More than two months after the French airstrike in Abeibara in late October that allegedly killed 11 Malian soldiers held hostage by militants, families of the hostages are still struggling to find out the truth.

When Ruptly cameras reached the family of missing hostage Boubacar Kante in Markala in December, his uncle, mother and the second wife of his father, stated that they had received no information since the day of the French airstrike. After being initially notified that Kante may have died, they were informed that the information was not correct.

On October 1, 2017, militant group Jamaah Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) published a video named 'Appeal of the detainees,' featuring 11 Malian soldiers held in captivity by the Islamist group. The detainees called on the Malian people, the Malian government and in particular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for help in finding a solution. "We call on each and every one of the Malian people for help in order to bring us out of this crisis," they said.

In the video, each prisoner gave a short testimony, mentioning their rank, name, service number, and also the date and location of their capture. Among them was Boubacar Kante, who was kidnapped on July 16, during an attack on the Nampala outpost by militants. The Malian government did not make an official response to the appeal.

On July 26 of the same month, JNIM communicated that all the hostages in their hands had been killed in an airstrike in the locality of Abeibara. A few hours later, the French Ministry of Defence confirmed the airstrike but denied the presence of any civilians or hostages at the site of the attack. The French MoD labelled allegations that there were hostages in the vicinity, "propaganda coming from an armed terrorist group." The area is currently under the control of troops involved in Operation Barkhane, an ongoing military operation that has more than 3,000 French troops deployed in five former French colonies that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. French President Emmanuel Macron recently re-committed France to the operation and paid a personal visit to troops on the ground.

In an official statement on October 31, the Malian Ministry of Defence stated that the hostages were struck in the airstrike but the state also said that their presence was not known in the preparation phase of the airstrike. JNIM released another statement on November 1, in which they stated: "in response to the French lies, we are ready to provide the bodies to prove their identities."

In the following days, Malian and French authorities made several contradictory statements, that included one by the French Minister of Defence, who said in an interview with RFI on November 15, that "this French raid was a raid to neutralise a terrorist camp. We had identified, even before this operation, very accurately, on the basis of information, as we always do, the existence of a terrorist camp." In an attempt to put an end to the debate, the President of Mali Ibrahim Boubakar Keita released an interview to the magazine Jeunes Afrique on December 3, stating that "they were indeed hostages of terrorists and there should not be any ambiguity between our French friends and us (...) It is an unfortunate fact, which unfortunately can occur in this type of operation. We must admit it and not look for other reasons that do not exist."

Mali's Defence Ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo on Wednesday branded the claims of collaboration an insult. "At some point a specific media wanted to justify that the 11 Malian hostages that where at this site had joined the jihadi movement. We consider that to be an insult to the memory of these men that lost their lives in service of the nation."

On the reason why families of the hostages are left without information, in an interview with Ruptly, he added: "Because as you understand after an aerial strike the body is sufficiently disfigured making it difficult to identify it immediately, we have to go through several scientific procedures to be able to determine the identity of that person, it's a process still ongoing." Although he also added that " from images that we received we recognised five of our soldiers that were taken hostages during terrorists attack in Boulikessi and we understood that Mali had 11 hostages and there were 11 hostages found on this site, and all of them lost their lives during this operation."

C/U Picture of Boubacar Kante in Malian military fatigue

SOT, Madame Coulibaly, Mother of Boubacar Kante (Bambara): "Since he was a child he wanted to be a soldier, he loved the idea of being a soldier."

W/S Compound in Markala where the Boubacar's family live

M/S Madame Coulibaly, mother of Boubacar Kante

SOT, Uncle of Boubacar Kante (French): "It was from there that he was attacked in Nampala, in this attack Boubacar became a prisoner, so since he was a prisoner I had to move his family to Markala."

W/S Compound in Markala where Boubacar's family live *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Uncle of Boubacar Kante (French): "On July 17, 2016, he was taken prisoner in the Nampala attack on the Nampala security post. There were people dead, people wounded and people missing. Boubacar is one of the missing. Sometimes, often, we see it on the internet. Sometimes we see him on the internet, until the operations of Barkhane."

W/S Compound in Markala where Boubacar's family live *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Sanaba Sissoko, second wife of Boubacar's father (Bambara): "Only later, through the internet and radio, we saw that the Barkhane forces bombed them and during the bombing 11 soldiers were victims of the attack; again no other information. They came to tell us that everything is fine, and then no other news, we are waiting to receive any news regarding our son."

M/S Compound in Markala where Boubacar's family live *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Uncle of Boubacar Kante (French): "France says no, it's not true. So who is right? Is it France that is there? Mali is not there. What can we say? Nothing."

M/S Compound in Markala where Boubacar's family live

C/U Compound in Markala where Boubacar's family live

SOT, Uncle of Boubacar Kante (French): "France says that at the time of the operations there were no hostages there, that is what I heard from RFI [Radio France International]. But after the supervisor of Boubacar phoned me to tell me that they have no information in relation to the situation. After checking they found no clue as to whether Boubacar is dead or not. It was denied. What has been said by France has been retained. We must not speak of the attack."

W/S Compound in Markala where Boubacar's family live *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Sanaba Sissoko, second wife of Boubacar's father (Bambara): "One day they tell us that the hostages have been involved in the bombing and the next day the tell us otherwise."

W/S Markala

SOT, Sanaba Sissoko, second wife of Boubacar's father (Bambara): "We are tired because we have not succeded in seeing our son with our own eyes, to confirm that he is alive."

M/S Boubacar Diallo in front of pc *CUTAWAY*

C/U Computer keyboard *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Boubacar Diallo, Mali Ministry of Defence spokersperson (French): "They (French side) intervened to destroy a jihadi camp in the zone of Abeibara. During this intervention 11 Malian soldiers lost their lives."

C/U File *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Boubacar Diallo, Mali Ministry of Defence spokersperson (French): "But, from images that we received we recognised five of our soldiers that were taken hostages during terrorists attack in Boulikessi and we understood that Mali had 11 hostages and there were 11 hostages found on this site, and all of them lost their lives during this operation."

C/U Boubara Diallo sign *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Boubacar Diallo, Mali Ministry of Defence spokersperson (French): "Because as you understand after an aerial strike the body is sufficiently disfigured making it difficult to identify it immediately, we have to go through several scientific procedures to be able to determine the identity of that person, it's a process still ongoing."

C/U Newspapers *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Boubacar Diallo, Mali Ministry of Defence spokersperson (French): "This is why certain people, and we understand perfectly their frustration, we understand perfectly their disarray, we understand perfectly their worry to learn immediately if their relatives are alive or dead in this site. We share their anxiety, but we are tied by procedures that authorise us to inform only when we have established the proof that it's actually them."

C/U Papers *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Boubacar Diallo, Mali Ministry of Defence spokersperson (French): "At some point a specific media wanted to justify that the 11 Malian hostages that where at this site had joined the jihadi movement. We consider that to be an insult to the memory of these men that lost their lives in service of the nation."

M/S Boubara Diallo typing *CUTAWAY*

SOT, Boubacar Diallo, Mali Ministry of Defence spokesperson (French): "The explanation that had been given to us from the French side is that they first flew over the camp and they didn't realise the presence of hostages on the site, above all of those who already were on this site, they were engaged in the same domestic activities and they got no indication that there were people who were hostages there. So they launched a military operation on the site. But from images that we received we recognised five of our soldiers that had been taken as hostages during a terrorist attack in Boulikessi and we understood that Mali had 11 hostages and there were 11 hostages found on this site, and all of them had lost their lives during this operation."

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