- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
Even though it is sad that the Elite Presidential Guard were massacred, it is in a way uplifting that the training given to these soldiers was effective and even against hopeless odds they attempted the counter-coup. I hope once the dust settles, they get recognition for their heroic actions and their families are taken care of.
Soldiers trained by Canadian special forces hunted, tortured in Mali after failed coup
David Pugliese, Postmedia News | Jan 27, 2013 4:30 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 27, 2013 4:31 PM ET
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AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERGERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty ImagesMalian soldiers patrol in a street of Diabaly (400km north of the capital Bamako) on January 26, 2013. French-led Malian troops recaptured the Islamist stronghold of Gao, today, the biggest town in northern Mali, and troops from Niger and Chad "will now take up the baton," the French defence ministry said.
Paratroopers trained by special forces based in Canada were behind a failed counter-coup in Mali last year to bring back a democratically elected government, but many have since been hunted down and killed by the country’s military.
Soldiers of the soldiers from the parachute regiment, 33eme RPC, were captured and later disappeared. They are believed to have been tortured and murdered by those behind Mali’s coup. Others fled to neighbouring countries.
The fate of the Canadian-trained soldiers illustrates the muddied political situation in Mali, whose government is still dominated by those involved in the coup and whose military supported the coup leaders. Canadian military aircraft are now rushing military supplies to aid French and Malian forces fighting al-Qaida-linked groups in the northern part of the country. Those same Malian forces are also now being accused of human rights violations against civilians in that region.
The paratroopers, who formed the elite presidential guard, were trained by members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, from CFB Petawawa in Ontario, in 2011 during the unit’s visits to Mali.
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CSOR sent a training team in the summer of that year to northern Mali to provide instruction. Another team was later sent to the capital city of Bamako to provide counter-terrorism skills training and officer training.
Postmedia News also travelled to Senegal in 2011 to observe some of the training of Malian forces by CSOR at a U.S.-sponsored exercise.
The paratroop unit not only provided security for the country’s president, Amadou Toumani Toure, but was also involved in fighting an al-Qaida-linked group that operated from bases in northern Mali. The CSOR troops did not accompany the Malians into combat.
In previous interviews, Canadian military leaders noted that the paratroopers were selected for training after a rigorous review of the unit’s human rights record by Foreign Affairs officials.
During the March 22 coup in Mali, the paratroopers remained loyal to the elected government and president Toure, and initially tried to fight off the mutiny by the disgruntled Malian soldiers. The coup leaders were upset with Toure for what they alleged was his mishandling of military efforts to put down a major uprising of Tuareg tribesmen in northern Mali. The Tuaregs, with the help of al-Qaida-linked groups, were eventually able to seize much of the country.
Capt. Amadou Sanago, who led the mutinous soldiers during the March coup, took control and Toure went into hiding. But a little more than a month later, members of the presidential unit launched an attempted counter-coup. They tried to take control of the airport, a key bridge and the country’s main TV station in the capital of Bamako. After several days of fighting, however, Sanago’s forces held on to power.
Although Mali now has a new acting president, Dioncounda Traore, forces loyal to Sanago are still considered to be in charge of the country.
Details of the fate of those in the presidential unit have emerged over the past several months. At least 40 soldiers were believed captured by Sanago’s forces.
A report by a human rights group says some of those soldiers captured were forced at gunpoint to have sex with each other. “Fabric was stuffed in their mouths before the abuse to stifle their screams,” the report from Human Rights Watch stated. Others were beaten.
Witnesses said around 20 of the soldiers were seen after the coup being led away, never to be found again.
Jerome Delay / Associated PressMalian soldiers jubilate as they return to Niono, from Diabaly, some 400 km north of the capital Bamako on Saturday.
Sanago later disbanded the unit but some in Mali have called for its reinstatement, according to reports in Mali’s news media.
Mali’s military, with the backing of French troops, is now fighting against Islamist groups in the north of the country and has made in-roads in forcing those forces out of major towns and cities. But Mali’s soldiers have also been accused of human rights abuses. The International Federation for Human Rights has reported that Malian troops killed 33 civilians, including Tuareg tribesmen.
There have also been abuses of the civilian population by the Tuareg rebels and al-Qaida-linked groups.
On Wednesday, France’s defence minister acknowledged that Malian troops may have committed abuses. “We must be extremely vigilant, and the president of the republic (François Hollande) is counting on the Malian army’s leaders to hold themselves responsible for avoiding any abuses,” French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told FRANCE 24 news agency.
Training foreign security forces in developing nations is a potential minefield of human rights issues.
In 2011, news reports linked police in South Sudan, who had been trained by the RCMP and Canadian provincial police forces, to a vicious crackdown to enforce conservative dress among women and young men. Police abused women who wore trousers and men wearing dreadlocks were beaten and then had their hair forcibly cut.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, which funds Canadian special forces training through its Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program, had noted in the past that all such projects are vetted carefully and the risks are considered.
“Human rights are a factor that is considered by (the department) in the analysis and selection of all projects, including training,” department spokesman Claude Rochon said in 2011. “(The department) monitors the implementation of all projects, including post-training followup.”