Gao - After French and Malian forces clashed with Islamists
in northern Mali's largest city, hundreds of curious residents on Monday
flocked to the site in central Gao still scattered with human remains and
Sadou Diallo, the mayor of the city 1 200km northeast
of Bamako, blamed Sunday's attack on "a slackening" of control by the
Malian army at the city's northern border, where two suicide bombers recently blew
Several witnesses said the Malian troops fled after the
second suicide attack late Saturday, allowing for the Islamists to sneak in.
At least two jihadists died during the clashes, according to
a high-ranking Malian officer.
Diallo also pointed to "negligence on the side of the [Niger]
river", by which some Islamists arrived by boat.
On Monday morning hundreds of men, women and children
gathered on a shopping street before the police station, where the rebels had
hid before firing on the French and Malian soldiers.
Malik Maiga, a local vendor, said he "found five people
dead [...] from stray bullets", adding they were "market vendors,
While doctors only spoke of two civilian bodies at the
morgue, Maiga's claim was plausible given that not all corpses are
systematically brought over.
But there was no sign of panic in the crowd: for the
residents, the beige building holed by shelling and machinegun fire, with its
first floor gutted, was the attraction of the day.
The crowd gawked at human torso remains lying in the rubble,
along with other fragments of flesh.
"It's disgusting but wonderful to see. These people
tortured us, they did nothing but damage here," said Mahamane Tandina, 24,
cheered on by the crowd.
"We like this, frankly," he said with a smile.
Standing at his side was Jemilatou, a shy 15-year-old who
said he came to "see the Mujao who died".
The militant group Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West
Africa (Mujao) had controlled the city since June until the troops arrived in
The group has claimed Sunday's guerrilla attack and the pair
of suicide bombings Friday and Saturday, saying "The mujahedeen are in the
city of Gao and will remain there".
On the first floor of the police station, two walls
crumbled, leaving only a reinforced concrete column to support a corner of the
A stew of human flesh lay on the floor next to blood
splatters that covered the column and cracked ceiling, seeming evidence of a
jihadist who blew himself up in the clashes.
Witnesses said that at 04:00 GMT on Monday, a French army
helicopter also attacked the building.
Allegations of torture
The parade of onlookers lasted for hours, even as the site
had yet to be cleared of mines: two unexploded grenades remained.
A crowd also gathered near Gao's Independence square,
renamed "Sharia square" during the occupation, where a corpse lay in
the courtyard of the governor's offices.
"It wasn't an Islamist. It was Faycal Harouna Maiga, a
Gao tailor," said 23-year-old Boubeye Ahmed Toure, who knew the man and
did not know who shot the man.
While the Islamists kill indiscriminately, the Malian
soldiers are also trigger-happy: they fired several times at unarmed people
passing by the clashes on Sunday, according to footage from the television
channel France 2.
Allegations of torture and summary executions committed by
the Malian army have multiplied since the start of the conflict.