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Mauritania on Monday condemned the deadly shooting by Malian troops of 16 suspected Islamists, including several Mauritanians, at a checkpoint in central Mali.
The Mauritanian government denounced “the cruelty of this unjustifiable collective murder of unarmed, innocent preachers by armed men dressed in the uniform of the regular army”, calling the shooting “a barbaric massacre”.
The shooting by Malian soldiers took place at a checkpoint near the town of Diabali on Saturday night, when a vehicle carrying the men failed to stop and the troops apparently took them for armed Islamists, who have overrun the northern half of the country.
Mauritania's government said that the killings “were a (...) criminal act, committed in cold blood, without warning (...) against preachers who had no other weapons than their faith, coming to bring the message of peace, brotherhood and tolerance” to Mali.
It demanded the “diligent opening of an independent inquiry, with the aim of elucidating the circumstances of this odious crime and identifying those responsible, to bring them to justice.” Mauritania also demanded a role in such an investigation.
Mali's government ordered an immediate investigation on Sunday.
In a statement late Sunday, the government said “an incident” occurred overnight Saturday in which eight Malians and eight people from neighbouring Mauritania were fatally shot.
“On behalf of the people of Mali, the government deeply regrets this painful event and presents its sincere condolences to the bereaved families and the government and people of Mauritania,” the statement said.
Mauritania's official news agency AMI said 12 Mauritanians had been killed.
According to several Malian and Mauritanian officials, the victims were travelling in a single vehicle and were unarmed.
Malian troops are on high alert after Islamists seized control of more than half of the country following a disastrous army coup in March in Bamako that led to political chaos and a collapsed military presence in the north. - AFP