Locals: French Airstrike Killed Six Civilians in Northern Mali

France insists everyone killed was Islamist militants

Local officials in the Gao region of northern Mali are reporting at least six civilians have been confirmed killed in a series of French airstrikes in the area. The attack was the latest in a series of French strikes in the area, intended to keep Islamist groups from growing in Mali and neighboring countries.

France was quick to deny that the slain were civilians, saying everyone they hit was an “Islamist militant.” This has been common for French operations in recent years in Mali, where reports of civilian casualties are dismissed out of hand.

ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb both have a presence in and around Mali, and France has in recent years gotten involved in that fight. So far, this has led to some deadly battles and a lot of strikes, but nothing decisive.

Deadly attacks this month in neighboring Niger have raised concern that ISIS is looking to increase its activity in this part of the Sahel. Civilian deaths are raising concern that it will allow the Islamists to recruit more easily.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.