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A United Nations peacekeeper on patrol in central Mali. Photo: Sebastien Rieussec / AFP via Getty Images

19 of the 22 people killed by a French airstrike at a Mali wedding earlier this year were unarmed civilians who were "protected against attacks under international humanitarian law," a new United Nations report has found.

Why it matters: The findings that only three of those killed were suspected militants contradict France's claims that the targets in the Jan. 3 strike near the village of Bounti, central Mali, were militants — an assertion French officials stood by after the UN report's release Tuesday.

  • The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali's report recommends that Malian and French authorities conduct "an independent, credible and transparent investigation" into the strike and "possible violations of international humanitarian and human rights law," per a UN statement.
"This strike raises serious concerns about respect for the principles of the conduct of hostilities."
— Excerpt from UN report

What they're saying: France's Defense Ministry insisted in a statement issued in response to the UN that the strike targeted an "armed terrorist group."

  • The ministry accused the UN fact-finding mission of failing to "distinguish credible sources from false testimonies of possible terrorist sympathizers or individuals under the influence of jihadist groups."

For the record: Officials in France have been debating the issue of the country's 5,100-strong troop presence in the West Africa nation, which was under French colonial rule from 1892 until 1960, Bloomberg notes.

  • The airstrike occurred days after five French soldiers were killed in two separate attacks, which were claimed by a branch of Al-Qaeda.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron last month warned against any rapid withdrawal of troops in West Africa's Sahel region amid calls to withdraw forces.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
7 hours ago - Health

The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

The Wuhan Institute of Virology. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

A group of high-profile scientists published a letter calling for renewed investigation into the origins of COVID-19 — including the theory that it spilled out of a virology lab.

Why it matters: The possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a Chinese lab and accidentally escaped — rather than emerging naturally from an animal — was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory. But the letter shows a potential lab leak is increasingly being taken seriously.