Mali gov't warns soldiers amid killings reports

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French soldiers patrol in armored vehicles, in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 620 kms (385 miles) north of Bamako, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The U.S. airlift of French forces to Mali to fight Islamic extremists is expected to go on for another two weeks, Pentagon officials said, as hundreds of African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal are now joining the French-led intervention. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

SEVARE, Mali (AP) — Mali's government is warning soldiers to respect human rights following reports that the military killed civilians at a bus stop in central Mali.

A witness told The Associated Press that he saw soldiers fatally shoot at least three people and dump their bodies in a nearby well.

A French-based group has cited at least 33 deaths.

A government statement says "the army should be irreproachable."

Mali's military spokesman has called the reports "absolutely false."

Witnesses say the killings took place two weeks ago after the Islamists surged south and seized the town of Konna. France began its military operation to oust the Islamists the following day.

The Islamists rule northern Mali, and human rights groups have warned of retaliatory violence.