Tags: mali | mass | grave | 21 | bodies | soldiers

Mali Mass Grave: 21 Bodies May Be Soldiers Missing Since Coup

Image: Mali Mass Grave: 21 Bodies May Be Soldiers Missing Since Coup

Thursday, 05 Dec 2013 08:20 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Malian authorities told Reuters Wednesday that they believe that 21 bodies found this week in a mass grave are soldiers missing since 2012 connected with a coup led by former junta leader General Amadou Sanogo.
Malian police arrested Sanogo last week, charging him with complicity in kidnapping, resulting from a coup he led in March 2012. Sources told Reuters that authorities discovered 21 bodies near the village of Diago.

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"We will add murder to the charges (against Sanogo)," Mali's chief prosecutor Daniel Tessougue said. "If we find there are signs of torture we will add that too."

Tessougue said that military uniforms and identifications were found at the grave site.

By bringing a case against Sanogo, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita hopes to gain civilian control over the army, which has been accused of excessive violence and torture during an 18-month stretch when Islamic rebels occupied northern Mali.

BBC News reported that bodies uncovered were likely soldiers who were loyal to former president Amadou Toumani Toure, who was toppled in a coup last year. Sanogo removed Toure in March 2012, claiming that he did not do enough to turn back a Tuareg-led rebellion.

Sanogo was a middle-ranking officer when he led the coup. Authorities said Sanogo had dodged a summons ordered in October by the country's judicial ministry to answer questions about the coup.

Some 25 soldiers converged on Sanogo's residence last week and arrested him. The Islamist rebels in northern Mali were eventually removed by a French-led military effort in January.

Reuters reported that Sanogo and his coup were supported by many Malians who were frustrated by the high levels of corruption under former president Toure and the country's underdevelopment.

Last week, a clash between pro-Sanogo supporters in Kati left 12 policemen wounded, demonstrating his continued popularity.

Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters that  officials believe the bodies' discovery was not an isolated incident.

"It is crucial that the momentum started by the red beret case be sustained by investigations into other recent abuses, including by Malian soldiers, armed Islamists and the Tuareg Separatists," she said.

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