Tuareg rebels behind January killings, confirms Mali army
The Malian army confirmed on Monday that Tuareg rebels had carried out the summary execution of soldiers and civilians during an offensive in the north-eastern town of Aguelhok on 24 January.
Earlier French Development Minister Henri de Raincourt condemned the murder of 82 people in northern Mali in an interview with RFI, accusing the killers of adopting Al-Qaeda-style tactics.
Colonel Idrissa Traore, head of the Mali army's information service, said civilians were among the dead and he believed these acts could only have been committed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM.
"There were indeed summary executions on this day. People's throats were cut, others were simply shot in the head," he said.
De Raincourt described the attacks in Aguelhok as “absolutely atrocious and unacceptable violence”. He said he could not give the exact number of dead, but it was "about 60."
An officer involved in burying those killed told the French news agency he had counted 97 dead soldiers and saw a military camp completely destroyed and burning cars.
The Tuareg rebels - whose numbers include those who had returned from fighting in Libya for Moamer Kadhafi - are demanding greater autonomy for their nomadic desert tribes.
The latest fighting began on 17 January, when the Azawad National Liberation Movement launched an attack in northern Mali. This sparked clashes with the army and has become the largest offensive by Tuaregs since 2009.