They expected it and they prepared for it. By returning Gossi’s grip to the Malian army (Fama) on Tuesday, April 19, the French soldiers knew that they were exposing themselves to further manipulation by Moscow to discredit them with African and particularly Sahelian opinions. It did not fail. A Twitter account posted Thursday, April 21, images of blurred corpses buried in the sand with this comment: “This is what the French left behind when they left the base at #Gossi (…), we can not remain silent on this! »
→ THE FACTS. In Mali, the army accused of the worst massacre committed in ten years of conflict
A serious accusation, immediately defused by the French army which filmed a few hours earlier, using a drone, soldiers of the Caucasian type – Wagner mercenaries, according to the French army – burying bodies near the Gossi base. In this video that The cross was able to consult, we actually see men in uniform bustling around a dozen bodies that they cover with sand, some filming the scene. “The comparison of the photos published on Twitter and the images collected by the specialized sensor makes it possible to make a direct link between what Wagner’s mercenaries are doing and what is falsely attributed to the French soldiers”we are assured on the side of the staff of the armies.
The offending account “is most likely a fake account created by Wagner, using the profile picture of a Colombian (Alexander Murillo) registered on the Russian social network Vkontakte in 2021. The Twitter account was created in January 2022 and uses a stolen photo. » And to add “This maneuver to discredit the Barkhane force seems coordinated; it is representative of the multiple information attacks to which the French military have been subjected for many months”we explain on the French side. Where do these bodies come from? Most likely “of the operation carried out by the SMP Wagner and the Fama in Hombori, on April 19 (exaction mentioned by the UN)”one supposes at the headquarters of the French army.
Wagner, mercenaries in the service of Putin
“We had anticipated because we have already been attacked”, reacted Colonel Pascal Ianni, spokesman for the Chief of the Defense Staff, this Friday, April 22. The staging filmed by the French drone is in his eyes clearly an episode of the “informal struggle” led by the Kremlin against Paris in Africa.
It’s no secret: since 2018, Moscow has openly undertaken to drive France out of the continent by replacing it first in the countries that have failed. An operation started in the Central African Republic, which continues in Mali and of which we can document the first signs in Burkina Faso and Cameroon. To do this, the Kremlin uses, among other things, fake social media accounts to discredit France’s actions in the target countries. ” It’s about, is assured on the side of the staff, hundreds of fake accounts », responsible for relaying and disseminating lies and messages accusing France of the worst evils. A strategy also used by terrorist groups in Africa, and by major powers such as China and Turkey.
→ READ. Cyberspace: the French army goes on the offensive in the information war
To deal with their trolls, France set up a cyber command in 2019. Located in Rennes, it is responsible for hacking or paralyzing its opponents in cyberspace. Added to this is the Joint Environmental Action Center (CIAE). Based in Lyon, he sends technicians to the area to conduct counter-propaganda operations. Through these structures, the French army also uses fake accounts on social networks to discredit a group, an action, a power threatening its interests. Behavior revealed by Facebook in December 2020: after investigation, the social network had detected and deleted 150 active accounts in the Sahel and the Central African Republic, linked to the French army and Russian interests.