The French army posted a video the next day that it claimed showed Russian mercenaries burying bodies in sand to falsely accuse their leaving forces of war crimes.
The half-buried bodies were being filmed by two troops.
When France deployed a drone to video what it claimed were mercenaries burying remains near a military installation, Malian authorities accused the French army of “spying” and “subversion.”
The drone flew “illegally” above the Gossi base on April 20, the day after French soldiers turned it over to Mali, according to the authorities.
Mali’s military had announced an investigation into the finding of a mass grave at the Gossi base earlier in the day on Tuesday.
The army said it discovered the grave the day after the photographs were released, and that the victims’ advanced state of putrefaction ruled out Malian soldiers as the perpetrators.
With the drone-filmed footage, it accused France of spying and seeking to smear Malian soldiers’ integrity.
“The said drone was present … to spy on our brave FAMa (Malian armed forces),” claimed Abdoulaye Maiga, a government spokesperson. ”
In addition to espionage, French soldiers engaged in subversion by disseminating phony pictures purporting to implicate the FAMa in the massacre of civilians in order to ruin their image.”
Since the beginning of the year, “foreign aircraft, notably operated by French forces,” according to Bamako, have purposefully violated Malian airspace more than 50 times.
Mali’s former colonial power, France, is drawing to a close a nearly decade-long counterterrorism military effort in the West African country.
It opted to withdraw its forces in February following a disagreement with the military administration, particularly over its increased contact with Russia.
France and the US have accused mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked security firm Wagner of being deployed in Mali, despite the Russians’ assertion that they are just military instructors assisting in the restoration of order.
Due to the insurrection in Mali, which began in 2012 and extended three years later to Burkina Faso and Niger, large portions of the country are out of government control.
Since an August 2020 coup prompted by protests against the government’s conduct of the battle against militant forces, the landlocked Sahel state has been governed by a military administration.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes as a result of the fighting, which has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians.
The military administration first intended to restore civilian authority, but it failed to organize elections in February this year as pledged to the West African body ECOWAS, sparking regional sanctions.