World Bulletin / News Desk
Human rights groups said on Friday that a French-led offensive against insurgents in Mali had led to civilian deaths in airstrikes and to ethnic reprisals by Malian troops, a day before President Francois Hollande was due to visit the country.
France has deployed more than 3,500 ground forces in a lightning three-week campaign that has wrested control of northern Mali's towns.
The aim is to prevent the fighters from using Mali's ungoverned desert north to launch attacks on neighbouring African countries and the West.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, however, cited eyewitness reports of extrajudicial killings by Malian government soldiers of dozens of civilians in the central towns of Sevare and Konna.
They said the troops targeted light-skinned Arab and Tuareg ethnic groups associated with the rebels. The Malian military has denied any reprisal killings by its soldiers and the government in Bamako has publicly warned against revenge attacks.
Amnesty also reported that at least five civilians - including a mother and her three children - were killed by a helicopter rocket attack on the morning of Jan. 11 in Konna, seized by the fighters in an offensive two days earlier.
"Neither the Malians nor the French took the required precautions to avoid hitting civilian targets," Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty's lead researcher for West Africa, told a news conference in Bamako. "We've asked France and authorities in Bamako to open an independent investigation."
In response, France said it did not begin its military intervention in Mali until the afternoon of Jan. 11 and its helicopters did not target any area inside the town of Konna.
The Malian army has two Hind Mi24 attack helicopters but it is not clear if they are operational.
The allegations of rights abuses came as Paris confirmed Hollande would visit Mali on Saturday, accompanied by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Hollande would meet Mali's Interim President Dioncounda Traore in the southern, riverside capital Bamako before travelling up to Timbuktu to greet French troops, an Elysee diplomatic source told Reuters.
Agreements on battleships and fighter jets go ahead in Paris despite opposition from right groups
EC president's plan to revive EU economy comes under attack for being based on €21bn of reallocated funds and theoretically luring private investors
Valerie Amos frequently urged the Security Council to immediately act to ensure more humanitarian access in Syria.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Yatsenyuk says they will sue Russia at international courts to seek compensation for the alleged damage done to their country.
The money was earmarked in the 2013/2014 parliamentary budget for foreign trips by the members of parliament.
Kenyatta’s speech came one day after hundreds of people demonstrated outside his office in Nairobi to protest what they dubbed as the government’s failure to control growing insecurity in the country.
John Gatt-Rutter said he was painfully aware how much needed to be done to speed up the delivery of aid to Gaza's 1.8 million people.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in its bulletin for the quake that no tsunami warning was in effect.
The seven investigators and academic legal experts said publication of the report by a Senate committee would be welcomed by victims of torture and their supporters everywhere.
Mohammad Farhadi, a centrist who held senior positions in a previous reformist administration, secured a 197-28 vote of confidence with 10 abstentions in the conservative-dominated Majlis
The initiative comes as Britain's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government faces pressure from the rise of anti-EU and anti-immigration sentiments
Rebiya Khadeer accuses China of oppressing Uighur minorities and carrying out genocide and other atrocities in East Turkestan
Several NGO’s in Turkey demand release of two Azerbaijani citizens and call Armenia’s hostage taking as “lawless.”
Russia's moves over Ukraine call European peace order into question and break international laws, says German leader
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin and Moualem were discussing "bilateral relations", declining further comment.
The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia's border and Al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate rebels