French minister insists troops didn’t bomb Mali wedding fete

PARIS (AP): France’s defense minister on Sunday denied reports that its fighter jets struck civilians at a wedding party in central Mali a week ago, saying that only jihadis were targeted and hit and that she verified the information herself after claims that at least 20 civilians were killed.

Some reports said that a helicopter bombed people celebrating a wedding in the village of Bounti, but Defense Minister Florence Parly said no helicopters were engaged in the Jan. 3 strike that “eliminated several dozen jihadis.”

“There was neither a marriage, nor women nor children. It was men, exclusively,” Parly said in an interview on broadcaster France Inter.

“You can say lots of things … These are facts, exact, proven, cross-checked, certified.”

Witnesses had said that at least 20 people were killed in a strike on Bounti. Hamadoun Dicko, leader of one of the largest ethnic Peuhl organizations in Mali, said witnesses described two air raids on Jan. 3 in the village.

“I have personally lost two friends,” said Dicko, who is president of the Tabital Pulaaku Youth Association.

French military authorities had already denied any connection between the strikes and what was said to be a wedding party.