Experts say some of the jihadists freed in the recent Mali prisoner swap are battle-hardened fighters with years of combat experience.
Rights groups are voicing concerns over the release of 200 jihadist militants in a recent prisoner exchange in Mali.
The militants were freed by the government earlier this month in exchange for the release of four people, including a French aid worker, two Italian nationals and a prominent Malian opposition leader, who had been held captive by an al-Qaida-affiliated group in northern Mali.
While local rights groups have welcomed last week’s release of the four individuals, they also believe that freeing a large number of “presumed terrorists” could pose a further threat to Mali’s stability and undermine the country’s judicial system.
This release “means that the fundamental rights of those murdered by jihadists in Mali have been violated, while (their relatives) were waiting for justice to take its course,” said Aguibou Bouare, president of the National Human Rights Commission in Mali.
“These people were released even though they have committed crimes,” he added, “Not complying with the rule of law, gives birth to impunity.”
Mali has been struggling to contain a growing Islamist insurgency that began as a separatist uprising in the north in 2012, which was later taken over by jihadists. The conflict has also spread to central Mali and neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger.
The violence has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.