by Staff Writers
Bamako (AFP) June 28, 2011
Three civilians were killed in a mine explosion in western Mali on Tuesday where Mauritanian and Malian troops are conducting joint operations against Al-Qaeda-linked militants, officials said.
"A mine just exploded on the border between Mali and Mauritania. Three civilians were killed but we do not know if they are Malian or Mauritanian," government official Moustapha Dante said.
This was confirmed by a Malian security source.
On Monday, Mauritanian and Malian soldiers swept a forest area in north-west Mali three days after a raid by the Mauritanian army on an Al-Qaeda base left 17 dead, including two soldiers, sources said.
The search operation in and around the Wagadou forest was a joint effort by the armies of neighbours Mali and Mauritania to flush out any remaining Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) members, Mauritanian sources said.
It came after a raid on Friday left the camp "completely destroyed", according to the Mauritanian army, which reported the base had housed heavy weapons and posed "a real threat to our country."
Witnesses interviewed by AFP from Bamako said several members of AQIM were leaving Wagadou forest and heading north toward the Sahara.
On Tuesday, a high-ranking Mauritanian military official said eleven Islamists arrested in the area were not AQIM members but "normal Mauritanians who have nothing to do with terrorism" who fled the forest area.
AQIM, Al-Qaeda's branch in north Africa, has bases in northern Mali from where it carries out armed attacks and kidnappings in the Sahel desert region where the group is also involved in arms and drugs trafficking.
Mali and Mauritania are among the countries hardest-hit by AQIM activities, along with Niger and Algeria, where the organisation has its roots. The nations work closely together in efforts to crack down on the organisation.
earlier related report
The State Department stopped short of endorsing calls for an international investigation into the bloody finale of the island's civil war in 2009, saying that domestic authorities have primary responsibility to ensure accountability.
"We continue to urge the government of Sri Lanka to quickly demonstrate that it is able and willing to meet these obligations as it seeks reconciliation," a State Department statement said.
"We hope the Sri Lankans will themselves do this, but if they do not, there will be growing pressure from the international community to examine other options," it said.
Pressure has mounted on Sri Lanka since Britain's Channel 4 broadcast a documentary that showed what it said were prisoner executions and bodies of female Tamil fighters who appeared to have been sexually assaulted.
The United Nations has said that up to 7,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the fighting and a recent UN report accused government forces of executing rebel leaders who were said to have worked out a surrender.
An estimated 100,000 people were killed in the nearly four-decade-long Tamil separatist conflict, which began in 1972.
Sri Lanka's government has questioned the authenticity of the Channel 4 footage but said that a local panel, known as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, would take action if the allegations are proven.
The documentary also pointed to abuses by the Tamil Tigers, who were known for suicide bombings during their decades-long insurgency. Sri Lankan officials said the Tigers kept civilians as human shields during the final offensive.
With urging from the Tamil diaspora, a number of US lawmakers have called for the State Department to exert greater pressure on Sri Lanka.
In Britain, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt recently warned that the international community would revisit "all options available" to press Colombo over its rights record.
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US warns Sri Lanka on war crime charges
Washington (AFP) June 28, 2011
The United States on Tuesday urged Sri Lanka to move quickly to address allegations of war crimes, warning of rising pressure for international action if it does not. The State Department stopped short of endorsing calls for an international investigation into the bloody finale of the island's civil war in 2009, saying that domestic authorities have primary responsibility to ensure accountab ... read more
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