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Tens of thousands of people in West African Mali have fled to the north-east of the country to escape fighting between rival radical Islamist groups. Since March, more than 65,000 people have arrived in the town of Menaka on the border with neighboring Niger, including 47,000 minors, a spokesman for Mali’s social development agency told AFP on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the UN mission Minusma also published its quarterly report, according to which the Malian army, accompanied by “foreign military personnel”, killed 50 civilians and captured 500 people in a raid in the small town of Hombori on April 19.

After one of their convoys was attacked by a roadside bomb, the military “combed” the city, Minusma reported, but gave no further details about the “foreign fighters”.

Cooperation between Western countries and the government in Bamako has deteriorated significantly since the military coup in August 2020. Several Western countries are accusing the ruling military junta in Mali of now using the services of the notorious Russian mercenary group Wagner, who are believed to be close to the Kremlin.

However, the junta in Bamako denies this and speaks of “trainers of the Russian army”.

The UN mission Minusma, together with a German Bundeswehr contingent, has been present in the Sahel state, which is affected by extremism and poverty, since 2013 and is intended to protect the Malian civilian population from Islamist militias.