Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Mali’s armed forces and foreign fighters thought to be from Russia’s Wagner Group of widespread abuses, including executing dozens of civilians and torturing detainees.

It said the atrocities were committed over the last seven months in response to the presence of Islamist armed groups in the central Mopti and Ségou regions.

Eyewitnesses said in March they saw helicopters flying low, shooting at villagers.

In February they found the bodies of eight men who had just been detained.

Mali’s foreign minister said he was not aware of the abuses and denied that any foreign forces were involved in operations with the military.

HRW wants independent experts to investigate. It warns that the imminent departure of UN peacekeepers will severely affect civilian protection and the monitoring of abuses by all sides.

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