in the information war, the French army answers and accuses the Wagner Group

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Image of the French army showing white soldiers covering a dozen bodies with sand, near the Gossi military base in Mali.

The information war has not yet set all the rules, but the gesture of the French army undoubtedly meets the definition of a reaction. Rare fact, it communicated with various media including: The worlda video in which we can distinguish 11 men in military uniform surrounding a mass grave, some of them digging the sand and burying a dozen remains, and whose aim was to blame the soldiers of Operation Barkhane for the massacre.

Like it The world could independently confirm this, the scene was filmed in northern Mali, less than 4 km from the Gossi military base, which the French soldiers had left two days earlier. The quality of the images in this video, taken with aerial photos, does not allow to determine the pigmentation of the skin of the people surrounding the corpses, but the fatigues do not correspond to that of the Malian army. “Very accurate information leads us to say that these are Wagner’s men. We don’t doubt it says the French army.

According to an officer, these images are supported by signals, cyber and human intelligence. “Our mission remains the fight against armed terrorist groups [GAT], not Wagner’s oversight, but we suspected that something would happen after our departure from Gossi, that some manipulation would take place. We therefore anticipated he explains, recalling the previous allegations directed against Barkhane’s soldiers: various forms of abuse, trade in gold or weapons to the jihadists, such as when a French convoy was blocked in Téra, in Niger, in November 2021, killing three protesters perished .

“Disinformation Maneuvers”

For the army hides a hand behind “these maneuvers of disinformation” aimed at tarnishing the image of France and the action of its soldiers withdrawing from Mali: the Russian group Wagner, considered very close to the Kremlin, which, after the Central African Republic, according to the General Staff, is more more than 1,000 mercenaries alongside the Malian junta since the beginning of the year.

After transfer, Tuesday 19 April, following an inventory “thorough”, the Gossi base of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) oversees the French army’s territory and social networks. According to the staff“a French sensor”first observes, Wednesday late afternoon, the installation on the Gossi site of“a dozen individuals of the white type, most likely belonging to the Wagner group”, and a detachment of Malian soldiers. An aerial photo of the camp is then taken at 9.55 pm, showing a small group of soldiers, probably Malians, sleeping under the stars, next to tents.

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“When we saw a first tweet at 10:06 PM on Wednesday. [évoquant “un crime contre le peuple malien fait par le Français” (sic)]† we thought it was the first act of an informational attack, reports the staff. The next day around noon a first photo appeared, it was act 2. This one denounces on Twitter: “That’s what the French left behind when they left the base at Gossi. We can’t shut up about this! † Act 3 will be the release of a video, Thursday, shortly after 4:30 pm.

“Evidence of manipulation”

The author of the tweets, Dia Diarra, presents herself as a “former soldier/Malian patriot/political analyst” and shows on his profile the photo of Colonel Assimi Goita, the transitional president of Mali. A few days earlier, Dia Diarra showed that of Alexander Murillo, a Colombian registered on the Russian social network VKontakte. “It is most definitely a fake profile created by Wagner”judgment on the army, which this time is able to answer in the “information warfare” that is given to him.

Indeed, Thursday 21 April at 9.50 am, ” Happy “, she said, a drone filmed the funeral scene. In addition to the kicks of a few, we can distinguish at least one person filming or photographing the action. The position and movements of the latter correspond to the photos published by Dia Diarra. for the military, “proof of manipulation” intended to incriminate Barkhane is done and he is given the opportunity to lead a counter-offensive to avoid being associated with this mass grave, and to stop the accusations circulating on social networks. The “war of perceptions”in the words of the Chief of Defense Staff, General Thierry Burkhard, is one of the construction sites of his institution.

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But the French army declined to release images of Bounti, where it is accused by the United Nations of killing at least 22 people, mostly civilians, in the bombing of a wedding on January 3, 2021. “In Bounti we conducted an operation to neutralize a GAT and so we implemented means of detection, identification and strikes, justifies the staff, who deny any blunder. Here it is only a matter of observation. †

Allegations of abuse

Now the question remains about the origin of the bodies filmed in Gossi. According to the French army, the remains are “could come from the operation led by Wagner and the Malian army in Hombori on April 19, in which nearly 600 people were arrested. † That day, on the outskirts of this place, 70 kilometers south of Gossi, a Wagner mercenary died after his vehicle exploded on a mine. “They then retaliated by launching an operation in the village”says a Malian humanist. It was a fair day. A few terrorists were in hiding. There were gunfights. Then the soldiers attacked everyone, attacking the inhabitants, depriving them of their jewelry, money and telephone, while others fired in all directions. † According to the NGO Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled), 20 people were killed in the operation.

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In central Mali, allegations of abuse by Malian soldiers and their Russian auxiliaries are mounting: about 450 people have been killed in their joint operations since the beginning of the year, Acled said. The deadliest occurred in Moura, a village in the Mopti region, between March 27 and 31. More than 380 residents were killed in this attack, described by the Malian army as“large-scale air-land opportunity operation”, allow to neutralize “203 fighters from armed terrorist groups”

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In a new tweet, on April 22, the Dia Diarra Twitter account confirms that: “the FAMa has conducted an operation in Hombori (a new terrorist supply site)”, but make sure “All those arrested have been released. The FMa is committed to respecting human rights during operations.”

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