AP reporter’s quest to find bodies ends in desert

December 7, 2013 | By | Reply More

Dec 07, – That’s how you know where the bodies are buried. Close to three dozen people in northern Mali disappeared earlier this year, killed or taken away by the country’s military, according to human rights groups. The victims were caught in a backlash against Arabs and Tuaregs, desert people who form a small and shrinking ethnic minority in Mali. As the West Africa bureau chief for The Associated Press, I wanted to know what had happened to them.

hromedia - AP reporter's quest to find bodies ends in desertAcross the desert, the wind combs the sand into smooth ripples that roll out evenly for miles. So when a hole is dug, you see it immediately. The sand looks agitated. Its pattern is disturbed.

Over six months, my colleagues and I tracked down what we would rather not have found: Six bodies in the desert, including that of a 70-year-old grandfather who had become a symbol of the killings. In each case, the victims had last been seen taken away by the Malian military at gunpoint. And in at least four of the cases, the military was found responsible in an internal report described to me but never released to the public.

The bodies offer concrete evidence for killings that Mali’s government has so far denied in public. If the government acknowledges their deaths, it could open a path to bring those who killed the men to justice. It also finally could return the bodies to their bereft families, who did not know where their loved ones were buried, or were too terrified to recover them.

Mali’s government, which has been promised $4.2 billion in aid from the international community, has refused to comment. The military reacted angrily. “You have no proof. Show me the proof!” Col. Diarran Kone, spokesman for Mali’s ministry of defense, told the AP last week. After hearing that the AP investigation had located six of the bodies, he added: “We have nothing more to say about this.”

Press journalist for HRO media – contributed to this report

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Category: Arab uprising

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