At least six civilians were killed in an airstrike Thursday in the locality of Talataye in Mali, while the French military said it targeted armed terrorist groups.
"On 25 March 2021, in the late morning, the Barkhane force carried out a strike neutralizing an armed terrorist group 60 km [37 miles] north of In Deliman," the French military reported Thursday night in a statement.
The release came after several alerts were issued during the day by local sources on civilians' death.
"The strike was carried out based on erroneous information," reported IdakSahak, a community group of northern tribes in Mali. In a statement, the group rejected France's claims and named five people it said died in the strike.
According to the local notables' version, they were six young people, four under 16 and two between 18 and 20.
They had decided "to spend the day outside the village of Talataye on three motorbikes and armed with a hunting rifle to shoot rabbits and partridges", said Mohamed Assaleh Ahmad, the mayor of the locality, quoted by the Malian press.
Various sources also confirmed that they were hunters and reported seeing drones in the air firing to the west of Talataye.
In its note, the Barkhane force confirmed that it destroyed three motorbikes but did not give further details on human casualties.
The military group only specified that it carried out "an ordered strike after an intelligence and identification phase that made it possible to characterize the presence and grouping of armed terrorist groups."
More than 5,000 French soldiers are deployed under Operation Barkhane, which is led by France alongside the G5 Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad to fight armed terrorist groups in the region, in particular, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Daech/ISIS in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).
However, the Malian and African populations question and doubt the objectives of this French presence for the past eight years, especially after airstrikes that caused several civilians' death.
According to the local population, the most recent strike in Bounti in January killed about 20 people during a wedding. However, France termed them as terrorists. Since then, the United Nations has opened an investigation that is still ongoing.
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