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French army accuses Russian mercenaries of staging burials in Mali

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By Euronews  with AP
France had handed over control of the Gossi military base earlier this week.
France had handed over control of the Gossi military base earlier this week.   -   Copyright  Katucya Barolin, French Army via AP   -  

France's military claims it has video evidence of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near an army base in northern Mali.

The military claims that Russia is staging a mass grave as part of a smear campaign against French troops.

Satellite images taken on Thursday purport to show ten soldiers covering bodies with sand near the Gossi military base.

The soldiers in the footage are alleged to be members of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary force, according to a French military source. The claim has not been independently verified.

Pro-Russian social media accounts have shared several images of bodies on social media, blaming France for the killings and burials.

France had only just handed the northern Gossi base to Malian forces on Tuesday. Paris says the handover was completed in a "safe, orderly and transparent manner" before Wagner mercenaries allegedly arrived and unloaded equipment.

The French military said the move to discredit French forces operating in northern Mali is part of a coordinated month-long campaign of information attacks on them.

Mali’s army spokesman Col. Souleymane Dembele said that a team has been dispatched to Gossi to investigate, adding “it is still early for us to react on this case.”

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

Around 1,000 Russian mercenaries are believed to be operating in Mali, according to military experts.

Earlier this month foreign soldiers -- thought to be the Russians working with the Malian army -- were accused of killing an estimated 300 men Moura in central Mali, according to Human Rights Watch.

It was the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s 10-year armed conflict against Islamic extremists, the NGO said.