First came a single helicopter, flying low over the marshes around the river outside the village, then the rattle of automatic fire scattered the crowds gathered for the weekly market.
Next came more helicopters, dropping troops off around the homes and cattle pens. The soldiers moved swiftly, ordering men into the centre of the village, gunning down those trying to escape. When some armed militants fired back, the shooting intensified. Soon at least 20 civilians and a dozen alleged members of an al-Qaida affiliated Islamist group, were dead.
Over the next five days, hundreds more would die in the village of Moura in the Mopti region of Mali at the hands of troops overseen by Russian mercenaries, according to a new United Nations report. All but a small fraction were unarmed civilians.
Published last week after an extensive human rights fact-finding mission conducted over several months by UN staff in Mali, the report gives an hour by hour account of events during a five-day military operation in Moura in March 2022, giving details of the worst single atrocity associated with the Kremlin-linked Wagner group outside Ukraine.