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The other side of French airstrikes on Mali: ‘They ruined everything I had'

Published time: February 04, 2013 19:26

Malian soldiers walk past a destroyed vehicle at the prefecture of the recently liberated town of Konna. (Reuters / Eric Gaillard)

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“We’re learning what happened in battle day by day. In the town of Konna, we heard stories from the fog of war. [Rebels] fled to the north when French troops showed up. It’s reported that the cost of that victory was high. While French planes killed only two rebels, the number of civilian casualties were an estimated 14,” journalist Gonzalo Wancha told RT.

It comes just days after French President Francois Hollande declared “victory” in northern Malian cities. But the victory also had its price:

“I wasn’t home when the bombing began. I started praying when I learned my house was under attack. They ruined everything I had – my family and my livelihood. [My children were 11, 10, and 6]. They all died,” Idrís Meiga, a farmer from Konna, told RT.

Meiga’s story is not unique. In fact, it is becoming all too common to hear of similar tragedies in northern Mali.

“Some kids came running up to us and said their mom had died. I brought them to our house. Their mother died after an hour of clinging to life. The children have nobody else but us,” resident Abdul Kampó said.

Another story involved a mother who died from shell splinters, leaving three children behind – including a newborn baby.  

Two young brothers drowned in a nearby river as they attempted to flee from the fighting.

These residents refuse to be persuaded by military claims of “victory.” 

“People [in the town] say [French] war crimes must be prosecuted under the Geneva Convention,” Wancha said.

And while Hollande maintains that French military intervention in Mali will be short lived, the consequences of this war will affect the lives of these innocent civilians for a lifetime.

Meanwhile, airstrikes continue in Mali’s far north. Earlier Monday, 30 jets targeted training and communication centers of Islamist militants in the town of Tessalit.

The move was an effort to cut off nearby supply routes. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France’s Inter radio that rebels “cannot stay there a long time unless they have new supplies.”

It is believed that French civilians are being held hostage by militants in the area.

Both France and the Malian government have come under criticism for their alleged activity against terrorists and Islamist supporters in the African country.

Days ago, three suspected Jihadists who were arrested in the liberation of Timbuktu said they were tortured by Malian soldiers who used a method similar to waterboarding.

“To force me to talk they poured 40 liters of water in my mouth and over my nostrils, which made it so that I could not breathe anymore. For a moment I thought I was actually going to die,” said one of the men who said he was from the central Malian town of Niono.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Malian government forces executed at least 13 suspected Islamist supporters and “forcibly disappeared” five others from the towns of Sévaré and Konna last month.