Mali troops and Russian mercenaries allegedly executed around 300 civilian men over five days during a military operation in a central town, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. The killings took place between March 27 and 31 in Moura, a rural town of around 10,000 inhabitants in the Mopti region.
"The incident is the worst single atrocity reported in Mali's decade-long armed conflict," HRW said.
Witnesses said that Malian and Russian-speaking soldiers arrived by helicopter and exchanged two rounds of gunfire with Islamist fighters, during which rebels, soldiers and a few civilians were killed. The troops then deployed through the town, summarily executed several men then gathered hundreds of unarmed others from their homes and took them to the bank of a nearby river. The men were held for five days under the sun and arbitrarily selected for execution by gunfire during the night. Bodies were piled into three mass graves.