Claim that Wagner group arrives Mali to support Niger is misleading

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A claim that the Russian mercenary group, Wagner Group, has just arrived Mali to provide support for the coup-led military regime in Niger is circulating online.

The claim was posted on X.com (formerly Twitter) by @Imranmuhdz on Wednesday, August 23, 2023.

This is coming about a month after soldiers in Niger seized power from Mohamed Bazoum, the democratically-elected president of the West African nation.

The claim reads:

The arrival of Russian mercenary group Wagner in Mali with soldiers, arms and ammunition, has introduced a new twist into the crisis over the military coup in Niger Republic.  Wagner claimed that the arrival of its team in Mali is to assist the Mali military government to dislodge terrorists and “any other interest” They pledged to join Niger in resisting any form of force that might be used against the Niger junta.  To give vent to their pledge, they have reportedly moved troops to Niamey as a backup to the Niger military. The Wagner presence in Mali, which shares a long border with Niger is believed  to be part of giving support in Niger. The coup leaders had requested support from Wagner, and Prigozhin said his men were ready to provide it.

The post has since gained about 500,000 views, over 3,000 likes, and more than 500 reposts.

The Wagner Group is a private military organization run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, with tens of thousands of fighters and it has operated in Syria and in various African countries.

CLAIM

Wagner group has arrived in Mali to provide support for the coup-led military regime in Niger.

Screenshot of the claim, Insert: misleading verdicft
Screenshot of the viral post. INSERT: Misleading verdict.

THE FINDINGS

Findings by the FactCheckHub revealed that the claim is MISLEADING.

Wagner, the Russian private military company (PMC), arrived in Mali in December 2021 and it has its base in Bamako, the Malian capital.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies reports that Wagner’s operations in Africa include paramilitary services and a broader network’s involvement in resource extraction, smuggling, influence operations, and other activities.

Mali had declared their support for the coup in Niger alongside Burkina Faso and Guinea earlier in August this year.

Burkina Faso and Mali had issued a joint statement to warn that any military intervention against Niamey would be considered a declaration of war against their nations.

Although Niger had solicited for help from the mercenary group, there have been no reports following Niger’s requests or the group assisting the Mali military government.

Further findings revealed that when this claim was made, the leader of the Wagner group was reportedly involved in a plane crash.

Similarly, when our researcher subjected the photo shared alongside the post to a Reverse Image search on Google and Yandex, the results show that the image has been on the internet some months back.

For instance, it was used as a feature image on an article published on Foreign Affairs website in May 2023, though it credited the photo to Reuters.

THE VERDICT

The claim that the Wagner group has arrived in Mali to provide support for the coup-led military regime in Niger is MISLEADING; checks show that the group has been in Mali since two years ago and there are no reports of  the group assisting coup-led military regime in Niger.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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