Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

US State Department accuses three Malian officials of facilitating the Russian mercenary group’s rise in the African country.

The United States has imposed sanctions against Mali’s defense minister and two military officials, accusing the trio of helping to facilitate the Russian mercenary group Wagner’s rise in the West African nation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that the sanctions targeted Malian Defence Minister Colonel Sadio Camara, Air Force Chief of Staff Colonel Alou Boi Diarra, and Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant Colonel Adama Bagayoko.

Blinken accused the trio of working to “facilitate and expand Wagner’s presence in Mali since December 2021”, adding that civilian fatalities had surged by 278 percent since the Russian mercenaries deployed to the country.

“Many of those deaths were the result of operations conducted by the Malian Armed Forces alongside members of the Wagner Group,” Blinken said.

In a separate statement, US Treasury Department official Brian Nelson also said the Malian officials had been “instrumental in facilitating the Wagner Group’s entrenchment in Mali over the past two years”.

“These officials have made their people vulnerable to the Wagner Group’s destabilizing activities and human rights abuses while paving the way for the exploitation of their country’s sovereign resources to the benefit of the Wagner Group’s operations in Ukraine,” Nelson said.

For years, the US and its allies have targeted the Wagner Group and those who support it with sanctions. Last week, the United Kingdom, for example, sanctioned 13 individuals with links to the Wagner Group in the Central African Republic, Mali, and Sudan.

That pressure increased in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in which Wagner mercenaries have played a large role. In January, Washington designated Wagner as a “transnational criminal organization”.

More recently, in May, the US also sanctioned Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, who the Treasury Department identified as Wagner’s “principal administrator” in Mali.

US officials have long accused the firm founded by Russian citizen Yevgeny Prigozhin of advancing Russian interests through security agreements and disinformation campaigns across Africa.

It remains unclear what effect a recent Prigozhin-led uprising in Russia will have on Wagner’s operations in Africa.

Malian officials increasingly turned to Wagner following a military-led coup in May 2021, which saw military officer Assimi Goita seize power.

Increasing violence

In addition to its sanctions push, Washington has accused Wagner of helping to engineer the departure of the 13,000-person-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

In June, per the request of Bamako, the UN Security Council voted to end the decade-long mission, which had increasingly become the subject of tensions but was seen as essential to preventing an all-out security vacuum in Mali’s sprawling central region bordering Niger and Burkina Faso.

ALJAZEERA

By Admin

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