Bamako: Twenty-one bodies were found overnight yesterday in a mass grave near Bamako, believed to be the remains of soldiers close to Mali`s ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure, officials said.
"We have found 21 bodies, probably of `red beret` soldiers, in a mass grave in Diago. The bodies were exhumed," a Malian justice ministry official said.
A security official said that "identity cards found in the mass grave seem to confirm that they were missing `red beret` soldiers."
The discovery near the capital Bamako comes a week after the arrest and detention of Amadou Haya Sanogo, leader of the March 22, 2012 coup against Toure that plunged Mali into chaos.
The government says Sanogo has been charged with complicity in kidnappings, but a source close to the judge in the case said that the charges also include murder, complicity to murder and carrying out kidnappings.
Fifteen people, mainly soldiers from his inner circle, were arrested immediately after him.
Sanogo`s coup toppled what had been heralded as one of west Africa`s most stable democracies and precipitated a crisis in which al Qaeda-linked groups seized control of the country`s north, enforcing a brutal form of Islamic law until a French-led military intervention forced them out.
In the months that followed, Sanogo`s then-headquarters in the central town of Kati were the scene of abuses and killings carried out against soldiers seen as loyal to Toure.
Some 20 "red berets" were killed by Sanogo`s followers in a failed counter-coup on April 30, 2012. Their bodies were never recovered.