Africa Defense Forum
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U.N.: Wagner Group Systematically Targets Malian Women to Spread Terror


A woman who lives in Moura, a town in central Mali’s restive Mopti region, recalled the horrors inflicted on her when Malian soldiers and Russian Wagner Group mercenaries launched a five-day assault in March 2022.

After days of slaughtering men, the Malian troops and Wagner fighters turned their attention to Moura’s women. The woman said soldiers searched her house for men but found none.

They returned the next evening and, she said, a white man with tattoos raped her.


fter that, I was injured in my genital area. When I tried to resist, the other soldier came in with my son and threatened to hurt him, until I gave in. That night, at approximately 8 p.m., four soldiers brought two women to my house and raped them,” the woman said in a report by the
International Federation for Human Rights.

The next day, she said, soldiers made the town’s women gather on a blazing hot riverbank, where four pregnant women went into labor.

“Only one baby survived,”  she said. “I was told that 26 women were raped
” during the massacre.

Her recollection aligns with a new report by United Nations
sanctions monitors, which found that Malian soldiers and Wagner fighters are sexually assaulting Malian women to spread terror. The report to the U.N. Security Council warned that the sexual violence is “systematic,” according to Reuters.

The sanctions monitors include: a U.N. panel of experts, Tuareg former rebels in northern Mali, international advocacy organization Human Rights Watch, and the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).

In November 2022, Wagner fighters raided
the village of Nia Oura, also in the Mopti region. A 23-year-old woman told The Daily Beast that she was knocked unconscious by a Wagner fighter who hit her in the head with a gun after she refused to undress. When she awoke, she was lying naked on the ground beside several other women who also were undressed.

“We were surrounded by white soldiers,” the woman said. “Some of them were holding phones and taking photographs of us.”

About 12 women and girls were sexually assaulted that day, according to a man who escaped the massacre.

“The women said the white soldiers stripped them, raped them and then brought out their smartphones which they used to video the women’s naked bodies,” the man told The Daily Beast. “The women said they were treated like animals.”

Mali’s military junta hired Wagner in 2021 to fill a security void it created by expelling a French-led multinational force that had been fighting the extremists. Wagner is believed to have between 1,000 and 1,645 fighters in the country.

Wagner has targeted civilians in the Mopti, Koulikoro, Segou and Timbuktu regions. At least 500 people were killed in the Moura massacre. Overall, 71% of Wagner’s engagement in political violence in Mali has taken the form of attacks targeting civilians, according to ACLED.

Wagner’s use of sexual violence is not confined to Mali.

The group committed a massacre in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) gold mining town of Bambari in 2021. A young man named Usman saw his brother shot dead. He, his mother and sisters survived.

One sister, Alzina, was taken to a Wagner base, where she was raped. Being a rape victim carries terrible shame in their community.

“She begged me for forgiveness and said she might as well be dead now,” Usman told CBS News.

Another of Usman’s sisters suffered a similar fate.

“They raped her in our home … it became Wagner’s house, where they drank and carried out those heinous acts,” Usman said.

The group also has been accused of committing sexual violence on allied forces.

In January, a pair of CAR Soldiers told The Daily Beast that Wagner fighters they were working with turned on them and accused them of being spies. The men said six mercenaries beat them and tied them to a tree.

Hours later, they said, the Wagner fighters returned and raped them.

“We tried to plead for mercy, but they covered our mouths with duct tape so that we wouldn’t be able to talk,” one of the men said. “It was a painful act I’ve never experienced before.”

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