NEW YORK, 30 March 2021 – Nineteen civilians attending a wedding were killed last January 3 by a French airstrike in Mali, a United Nations commission of inquiry has found.

French military authorities denied the charges at the time of the raid.

Air Strike Killed Civilians According to UN - Photo The North Africa Journal

Air Strike Killed Civilians According to UN – Photo The North Africa Journal

The airstrike targeted and hit only members of an “armed terrorist group”, the French had argued of the raid which hit Bounti village in central Mali.

The UN launched the inquiry after locals challenged the account provided by the French.

About 100 locals were at the wedding which was clearly accidentally targeted.

The UN report said about five armed people, thought to be members of a jihadist group affiliated to al-Qaeda, also attended the celebrations.

“The group affected by the strike was overwhelmingly composed of civilians who are protected persons under international humanitarian law,” the UN report said in part.

Locals who attended the wedding said a helicopter fired upon them as they were attending the wedding.

Building Destroyed in Air Strike - Photo Middle East Monitor

Building Destroyed in Air Strike – Middle East Monitor

French Soldiers Patrol a Street in Northern Mali - Photo Press TV

French Soldiers Patrol a Street in Northern Mali – Photo Press TV

“This strike raises serious concerns about respect for the principles of the conduct of hostilities,” the report added.

French military officials are not giving up the narrative that the airstrike hit civilians.

On Tuesday, France’s defense ministry said, in a statement, that it had “numerous reservations about the methodology used” by UN investigators.

It “maintains with consistency and reaffirms strongly” that the airstrike targeted an “armed terrorist group”, the French defense ministry statement added.

French Soldiers in the Sahel - Photo EN24News

French Soldiers in the Sahel – Photo EN24News

According to Reuters news agency, the UN investigation was carried out by the human rights division of its mission in Mali.

Members of the UN team of investigators analyzed satellite images, visited the area in late January, and interviewed more than 400 people.

France has 5,100 soldiers across the Sahel region, fighting militants tied to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

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