France’s Hollande to visit Mali on Saturday

President’s trip comes three weeks into military intervention in former colony against al-Qaeda-linked rebels.

Francois Hollande
French President Francois Hollande will travel to Mali with his foreign minister and defence minister [AFP]

French President Francois Hollande, Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Mali on Saturday, Hollande’s office has announced.

Development Minister Pascal Canin will also make the trip, which follows a three-week military intervention in the former colony in which French forces have recaptured large areas of northern Mali from al-Qaeda-linked rebel fighters.

France’s Liberation newspaper quoted unnamed sources saying Hollande also planned to visit the fabled desert city of Timbuktu, which French and Malian forces seized back from the rebels who had held the northern part of the former French colony since last year.

The announcement of the visit comes as human rights group Amnesty International said it has documented cases of the Malian military killing civilians.

It also said many people have disappeared since the conflict began.

In the report released on Friday, Amnesty cited witnesses saying the Malian army had arrested more than 24 civilians on the eve of the French-led intervention on January 11.

The rights group says it is feared that many were later killed by soldiers and some bodies were thrown down a well in Sevare.

The Associated Press news agency had earlier reported killings of civilians by the Malian army in Sevare.

The Malian government has promised to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by its soldiers.

France has said that it wants to hand over responsibility to the Malian army and other African counterparts.

Source: News Agencies