Some 260 Malians expelled from Algeria in a massive swoop against illegal African migrants arrived home Sunday to Monday accusing Algerian security forces of brutality and saying many had been hurt and some killed.
There was no independent or official confirmation available and Algerian authorities offered no comment on the operation early this month when asked by AFP.
"We were beaten up and at least three Malians were killed," said Ousmane Coulibaly, who was among those gathered at a government office who had returned to Mali overnight. He told AFP the Algerian forces were "racist".
Rounded up in "a big yard" after their arrest in the capital, Algiers, some of the Malians hurt their heads against walls and iron bars when trying to escape form being beaten, Coulibaly said.
"Others were hurt and one died during the transfer from Algiers to Tamanrasset and the Niger border," he said. The oasis city in southern Algeria, in the Ahaggar Mountains, is the biggest city before reaching the Niger and Mali borders.
Moussa Kante, who was also deported, confirmed the allegations and added that the group "lacked water and food."
"When we were being sent to Niger they gave us one loaf for 40 people," he said.
Deportees were sent to the Niger border by bus and then put on the road to the Niger capital, Niamey, "in trucks generally used to gather sand," said 22-year-old Oumar.
"We were arrested on the first" of December, said Youssouf Doumbia. "We asked people, and the army, why we were arrested. They told us they were vaccinating people."
African migrants have been regularly expelled by the thousands since Libya's descent into chaos. It had been the focal point for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
The migrants are generally arrested in northern cities bordering the sea and bused to Tamanrasset before being sent on to their homes. Operations are supervised by the Algerian Red Cross.
A Malian official in charge of Malians who live abroad, Issa Sacko, said the government deplored the ill-treatment and would ask for an inquiry into the alleged deaths.
Amnesty International official Saloum Traore too called for an immediate probe and the Malian Human Rights Association condemned "expulsions in conditions that violate basic human rights."