The group said it has captured mercenary fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group in fighting earlier this month.
It is the first time that Mali’s terrorist group known as JNIM, which are part of al-Qaeda, have claimed to capture Russian fighters. The Wagner Group fighters were seized in the first week of April in the mountainous Segou region of central Mali, said the JNIM statement, which called the fighters “criminals.”
Since the beginning of the year, several European countries have denounced the presence of Wagner’s Russian mercenaries, estimated to be about 1,000, who fight alongside Malian soldiers. They have been blamed for killing about 300 civilians in the central town of Moura. They have also been blamed for staging burials of bodies near the Gossi military base and trying to blame French military forces for the graves.
It os likely that JNIM delayed claiming responsibility for the kidnappings until the Wagner fighters could be transferred to a secure place before negotiations begin, Baba Dakono, a researcher at the Citizen Observatory on Governance and Security in Mali, stated.
When these kinds of people are captured by armed groups like the JNIM, there is generally an opening of negotiations with the Malian authorities or the authorities of their country for their release. Very often this release is done through an exchange of prisoners and the payment of a ransom, he said.