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French Airstrike In Mali Killed 19 Civilians, U.N. Investigation Finds

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Two Malian Soldiers Killed' In Possible Jihadist Attack

A United Nations investigation shows a French airstrike in Mali killed 19 civilians in January and three armed men at a wedding in the remote desert of central Mali.

The human rights division of the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said on Tuesday, it had visited the village of Bounti where the attack took place in early January.  It has also analyzed satellite images and interviewed more than 400 persons, including at least 115 in face-to-face, individual sessions.

The UN investigators` report contradicts France’s account that only Islamist militants were hit by the airstrike.  France’s defence ministry denies the allegation.

As Mali’s former colonial power, France has more than 5,000 military personnel in the northern Sahel region as part of a long-running operation intended to stop insurgency and violence by Islamist militants.

The report says “MINUSMA is able to confirm that a wedding celebration was held that brought together about 100 civilians at the site of the strike.

It said 19 persons, including 16 civilians and three armed men who were attending the wedding, were killed immediately in the air attack, while three more civilians died while being transferred to medical care.

“There were five armed individuals among them (wedding party), presumed members of Katiba Serma,” the MINUSMA report said, referring to an armed group affiliated with al Qaeda.

The French defence ministry rejected the report’s findings. In a statement, the ministry said the strike followed a “robust targeting process” that identified the targets as militants.

“The only concrete sources on which this report is based are local testimonies. They are never transcribed, the identity of the witnesses is never specified, nor the conditions in which the testimonies were gathered,” it said.

“It is therefore impossible to distinguish credible sources from false testimonies by possible terrorist sympathizers or individuals under the influence (including threats) from jihadist groups.”

The French military said in the days afterwards that it had killed about 30 Islamist militants identified by aerial surveillance.

Local officials in northern Mali accused France’s military last week of killing six civilians in another air strike. French forces said they had again hit Islamist militants.

France has been embroiled in an eight-year conflict in Mali, a former French colony, where Islamist insurgents with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate in the vast desert.

The groups have used bases there to carry out attacks across neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, destabilizing large swathes of west Africa’s impoverished Sahel region.

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Thousands Facing Hunger Over Mozambique Crisis – UN

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The United Nations says thousands of people are facing hunger as a result of the crisis in Mozambique. Several days of attacks in Palma last month were targeted at foreign workers and expatriates. Reports say the attacks have caused tens of thousands to flee.  Jihadists killed dozens of people in the five-day assault. At least 50,000 have been displaced – some to remote areas.

UN World Food Programme says the crisis in northern Mozambique is adding to a growing humanitarian crisis in the region. The agency says close to a million persons affected by the conflict in northern Mozambique are facing severe hunger, many lacking proper shelter.  The agency says malnutrition among children is also on the rise.

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Nigeria Heightens Security On Border With Chad

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Nigeria’s minister of defence Bashir Magashi says the country has heightened security on its border with chad following president Idris Deby’s killing by rebels.

The minister says this is because of external threats that would come from the influx of refugees. Magashi says only Nigerians living in Chad will be allowed back into the country.

Nigeria borders Chad in the north-east where Boko Haram militants have been active recently. Chadian soldiers have been part of the troops battling insecurity in west Africa.

Chad is seen as an important country to the international efforts to combat insecurity in the west African region.

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Ghana: NCA To Shut Down 49 TV Stations For Operating Without License

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Ghana has shut down what it called 49 illegal television stations. The National Communications Authority says broadcasting by too many stations would affect signals. Authorities say the TV stations were being shut down because they were unlicensed. They say the action will ensure efficient use of the country’s broadcasting spectrum.

At least 146 TV channels are currently authorized to operate.

The process of shutting down unlicensed stations is being done in collaboration with the police and intelligence agents.

The NCA says it continuously monitors satellite free-to-air television platforms.

More than 50 radio stations were shut down in a similar exercise in 2017.

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