Tuareg rebels on March 5 called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate what they called war crimes committed by Malian government forces during the current conflict. "Soldiers have engaged in acts of torture, summary executions and forced disappearances" in several areas including Timbuktu and Gao, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said in a statement. The movement said its lawyers have asked the ICC to open an investigation "into crimes committed by the Malian army against members of ethnic groups (such as) Fula, Tuareg, Arab and Songhai." (AFP, March 5)
Actually, the ICC announced in January that it had opened an investigation into possible war crimes committed during the conflict in Mali.
France admits that its military operations in Mali are now in their bloodies phase yet, with dozens of militants had been killed in recent days. France continues to officially regard reports of the deaths of al-Qaeda leaders Abou Zeid and Belmokhtar as unconfirmed—possibly out of concern for French hostages still being held in the region. The families of four French hostages believed to be held in the Ifoghas mountains have called for a halt in military action to allow for negotiations on their possible release. (AFP, March 5)
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian paid a surprise visit to Mali's north March 7 that Paris' aim is to help "reestablish security in the whole of Mali's territory." He added: "It is after that, progressively, we will hand over to an African mission under a UN mandate." (Reuters, March 7)