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US Sanctions Mali’s Defence Minister, Officials Over Ties To Russian Mercenaries 

Mali and Russia have claimed that troops in Africa are assisting in training of local troops.

The US has sanctioned Mali’s defence minister and two military officers, accusing them of facilitating the expansion of the Russian mercenary company Wagner in the West African country.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken imposed sanctions on 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 attempting to “facilitate and expand Wagner’s presence in Mali since December 2021,” noting that civilian mortality had increased by 278 percent since the Russian mercenaries arrived.

The US Treasury Department said it sanctioned Mali’s Defence Minister, Sadio Camara, for making repeated visits to Russia in 2021 to cement a deal between the Wagner Group and the Malian transition government to send the mercenary army to the West African country.

An official of the department, Brian Nelson, stated that Malian officials were “instrumental in facilitating the Wagner Group’s entrenchment in Mali over the past two years.”

According to him, “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.”

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

For years, the United States and its allies have sanctioned the Wagner Group and those who support it. The United Kingdom, for example, sanctioned 13 people with ties to the Wagner Group in the Central African Republic, Mali, and Sudan last week.

Russia and Mali have both stated that Russian forces in the African country are not mercenaries, but rather trainers assisting local troops in fighting a decade-long insurgency by Islamist extremists.

The US expressed worry about the Wagner Group’s destabilising actions in Africa and accused the group’s commander of assisting in the evacuation of UN forces from Mali.

Last month, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby informed reporters that the US had evidence showing that Mali’s transition government has paid Wagner more than $200 million since late 2021.

Glamour Adah

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