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French group says Malian crimes prevalent

March 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM

PARIS, March 25 (UPI) -- Both parties to the conflict in northern Mali are suspected of committing war crimes against civilians, a human rights group said Monday.

French forces in January responded to a Malian request to help take on foreign and al-Qaida forces that claimed authority over the north of the country in early 2012.

The International Federation for Human Rights, known by its French initials FIDH, said abuses were widespread and many cultural sites in historic cities like Timbuktu were in jeopardy.

"The people of northern Mali are subject to armed groups who kill, rape and destroy all symbols of humanity," FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said Monday. "We must stop this madness and only a strong commitment by the international community and African states will support the political transition in Bamako, which is key to restoring law and order in the north."

FIDH and its Malian counterparts said the government doesn't have the ability to restore security on its own. It recommended the government call on the International Criminal Court to address the criminal allegations in the country.

The United Nations last week sanctioned Ansar Dine, one of the groups fighting in Mali alongside al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

French President Francois Holland last weekend confirmed AQIM leader Abdelhamid Aboud Zeid was killed last month by French forces, the France 24 news agency reported.

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