The US has announced sanctions against three top Malian officials said to be co-ordinating the spread of Russian private military firm Wagner in the West African country.
They are Mali’s defence minister, air force chief and the deputy chief of staff, says US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
He says civilian deaths have tripled since Wagner forces were deployed to Mali in December 2021, adding “many of those deaths were the result of operations conducted by the Malian armed forces alongside members of the Wagner group”.
Washington and its allies have for years hit the Wagner group and its supporters with sanctions, accusing the paramilitary group of rights abuses and spreading misinformation. In January, Washington designated Wagner as a “transnational criminal organisation”.
Last week, the UK sanctioned 13 individuals with links to Wagner in the Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan.
Since French troops left Mali last August and the subsequent demand for withdrawal of the UN force there, the Malian junta, which seized power in May 2021, has increasingly turned to Wagner.
Wagner is thought to have some 1,000 troops in the Sahel nation that has been the epicentre of jihadist turmoil and political unrest for years.