A forensic team began the exhumation on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and finished unearthing the bodies at around 3 a.m. Wednesday, said Tessougue who spoke to the The Associated Press by telephone. The spot where the remains were found matches the place where witnesses said around 20 soldiers were shot and killed by troops loyal to Sanogo in May 2012.
“I went there myself to the spot, and we uncovered 21 skulls, which leads us to believe that we are dealing here with 21 bodies. The place still smelled bad. There were only pieces of bone, and the skulls. We also discovered metal chains inside the mass grave, which leads us to think that the people who were killed had been tied together with a chain,” Tessougue said.
In a move that has been applauded by the international community, the prosecutor arrested Sanogo last week, charging him with complicity in the kidnapping of his fellow soldiers. Now that the bodies have been found, Tessougue says Sanogo will also be charged with assassination. Human Rights Watch called the arrest of the feared leader a “big step for justice.”
On March 21, 2012, Sanogo led the military coup, which reversed two decades of democracy in this landlocked nation. Sanogo, at that time a captain, was backed by the rank-and-file soldiers at the Kati barracks, who marched on the presidential palace, toppling the former leader. Sanogo was opposed, however, by the elite paratroopers known as the Red Berets who made-up the presidential guard of the country’s ousted leader. When the Red Berets attempted to lead a countercoup on April 30, 2012, Sanogo responded with blunt force, organizing what human rights groups describe as a purge of the military.
In the early morning hours of May 2, 2012, at least 20 soldiers who had taken part in the countercoup disappeared, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The few who survived described being handcuffed and hogtied, beaten with batons, sticks, and gun butts, and kicked in the back, head, ribs and genitals. Around 20 were placed in a military truck, where a witness said he saw them with their hands bound behind their backs, their eyes covered. The mother of one of the missing men told Human Rights watch that her son made one last phone call, saying the soldiers detaining him were arguing about whether to kill him.
For most of 2012, Sanogo instilled fear in Mali, despite the fact that he had officially stepped down and handed power to a civilian government. Although the country’s interim leader set up his office inside the presidential palace, it was clear that the real seat of power was Kati barracks, where Sanogo continued to hold court, receiving daily visits from diplomats and politicians.