20 killed at ethnic flarepoint in central Maliby Pulse News Agency International by AFP
Twenty people were killed in an attack overnight on a village in central Mali, local officials said Friday, in an apparent spate of ethnic violence in the deeply troubled region.
The attack occurred in Ogossagou, a village mainly inhabited by Fulani people where around 160 died last March in a massacre blamed on Dogon militiamen.
About 30 gunmen carried out the new attack, village chief Aly Ousmane Barry told AFP.
"I counted the numbers while soldiers and the medical services were there," he said.
"We have 20 dead. Some of them have been burned."
A local government official, who requested anonymity, earlier confirmed that the attack took place and gave a toll of 11.
He said that the attackers moved in several hours after government troops had pulled out of the area.
Central Mali has been torn by ethnic violence as a result of a jihadist revolt that broke out in the north of the country in 2012.
The insurgency has claimed thousands of lives and spread to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.
Tit-for-tat attacks in central Mali flared after Fulani people, also called Peul, became associated with jihadists.
Led by a firebrand Islamic preacher Amadou Koufa, a militia called the Katiba Macina recruited members from among the Fulani and became accused of ethnically-motivated attacks.
Other ethnic groups such as the Bambara or the Dogon began to form self-defence groups that in turn became accused of reprisal massacres.
In addition to the latest attack at Ogossagou, 14 Fulani were killed in central Mali in January.
Around 75 Dogons were killed in the villages of Sobane Da, Gangafani and Yoro in June last year, in an attack blamed on Fulani militants.
'Epicentre' of violence
Human Rights Watch this month pointed to the ethnic patchwork of central Mali as the country's "epicentre" of violence.
It said over 450 civilians had been killed in the region in 2019, "the deadliest year for civilians" since the jihadist insurgency began.
Reflecting the chronic instability in the centre, Malian soldiers are themselves frequently targeted.
On Friday, one soldier was killed in an attack on a military camp in Mondoro, security officials said.
It had already been hit before -- as part of a joint raid by militants that also targeted the military camp of Boulkessy near the border with Burkina Faso, killing at least 25 soldiers.
On January 26, Al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked a military camp in Sokolo, central Mali, killing 20 gendarmes and wounding five more.
The violence in central Mali coincides with renewed hopes that the fragile government can reassert control over the widely lawless north.
Troops returned on Thursday to Kidal, a northern town that had been a bastion of Touareg rebels, after a six-year absence.
Regular forces returned to the town accompanied by former rebels who have been integrated into the army under a regional peace agreement.
The deal, reached in Algiers in 2015, is considered one of the few avenues Mali has for escaping the cycle of violence.