Scores killed in attack on Malian village

Mayor says 95 bodies recovered so far and much of village is still burning

Gunmen killed nearly 100 people in an overnight massacre in Mali, local officials have said, amid a wave of violence in the Sahel region linked to Islamist extremists.

The attackers entered a traditional Dogon village in central Mali under cover of darkness and started “shooting, pillaging and burning”, local media quoted officials as saying. The attackers are believed to belong to the Fulani ethnic group.

Violence between Dogon hunters and Fulani herders has resulted in hundreds of deaths since January. In March, gunmen killed more than 150 Fulani, one of the worst acts of bloodshed in Mali’s recent history.

Sunday’s raid took place in the Sangha district. Ali Dolo, the mayor, told Reuters that 95 charred bodies had been found so far, and the death toll was likely to rise as much of the village was still burning. “He said only 50 of the village’s 300 inhabitants had responded to a roll call.

A spokesman for Mali’s security ministry said those responsible for the attack had not yet been identified.

The violence between Fulani and rival communities has exacerbated an already poor security situation in Mali’s semi-arid and desert regions, which are used as a base by Islamist extremist groups with ties to al-Qaida and Islamic State.

Militants have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years to win recruits and extend their influence over swaths of territory.

On Monday, there were reports of a fresh attack in Burkina Faso. At least 19 people were said to have been killed at Arbinda, close to the border with Mali.

In April, more than 60 people were killed near Arbinda in militant attacks followed by intercommunal clashes.

One reason for the tensions between communities is the suspicion among some Dogon that the Fulani harbour Islamist extremists – an accusation denied by the Fulani.

Fulanis, who have little access to education or political influence, are frequently scapegoated as jihadis, often with deadly results. Up to 200 people were massacred in Burkina Faso in early January.

Many observers say the Malian government has lost control over parts of the country having outsourced the fight against jihadists to vigilante groups with scores to settle. In March, the prime minister and his government resigned after a surge in violence.

Al-Qaida-linked Islamist extremists seized much of the north in 2012. French forces intervened the following year to push back their advance but the militants have since regrouped. Last month, the UN mission in Mali said it had recorded at least 488 deaths in attacks since January 2018.

The UN mission has become known as the deadliest peacekeeping operation in the world, with almost 200 killed since it was set up six years ago.


Jason Burke

The GuardianTramp

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