A French military airstrike in the remote village of Bounti in central Mali on Sunday, Jan. 3 killed 19 civilians and three armed men, a UN investigation report revealed.
Reuters reported residents saying the airstrike, near the village of Bounti, hit a wedding party attended by civilians.
The report added that the French military said on Jan. 7 that its Barkhane taskforce killed about 30 Islamist militants identified by aerial surveillance.
In a report summarising the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) probe published, the UN was quoted to have said a wedding had in fact taken place and had “gathered about 100 civilians at the site of the strike”.
AFP stated that the UN report added that about five armed people, who are thought to be members of the jihadist group Katiba Serma, attended the celebrations.
The French military had said in the aftermath of the attack that it had killed about 30 rebel fighters identified by aerial surveillance and denied that a wedding had taken place in Bounti that day.
France has disputed the claim with the defence ministry saying it “maintains with consistency and reaffirms strongly” that on Jan. 3, French armed forces carried out an air attack targeting an “armed terrorist group” near the village of Bounti.
French counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane was founded in 2014 to combat the threat pose by terror groups in parts of the Sahel. France is also a major player in the Takuba Task Force, launched in 2020 alongside European allies.