The UN on Wednesday urged Mali to give its investigators access to a village where hundreds of people were allegedly massacred last month by troops and Russian paramilitaries. The military-dominated government in Bamako says it “neutralised” 203 jihadists in the central village of Moura, but witnesses interviewed by media and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say scores of civilians were killed. “We are extremely concerned that Malian authorities have still not granted UN human rights investigators access,” UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Seif Magango said in a statement. “While the exact death toll is unclear, the Malian army has acknowledged that it killed 203 fighters from ‘armed terrorist groups’ and arrested 51 people in a ‘large-scale” military operation in the area from 23 to 31 March. “However, other unconfirmed sources suggest the number could be as high as 500. Preliminary information suggests that the majority of victims were civilians,” Magango said. HRW has said Malian soldiers and foreign fighters executed 300 civilians in Moura between March 27 and 31. Malian forces were operating in tandem with white foreign soldiers, according to HRW. They are believed to be Russian because witness accounts refer to them as non-French-speaking. The United States, France and others say Russian paramilitaries in Mali are operatives from the private-security firm Wagner, which has also been accused of abuses in the Central African Republic. “In addition to the alleged summary executions, the defence forces also reportedly raped, looted, and arbitrarily arrested and detained numerous people during the military operation, among them many civilians,” said Magango. The statement said that on April 6, five days after the UN mission in Mali requested access to the area, Mali announced its own investigation. But, it said, “an independent on-the-ground investigation is critical, and time is of the essence to ensure accountability and prompt, effective justice for victims.” One of the poorest countries in the world, Mali is struggling with a decade-long jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. Public anger at elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s failure to roll back the insurgency provided the spark for a military takeover in August 2020. The junta is being helped by Russia, which is providing helicopters and other equipment, as well as operatives who are officially described as military instructors.