At least 95 killed in attack on ethnic Dogon village in central Mali
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At least 95 people were killed when gunmen raided their village in central Mali late on Sunday, FRANCE 24 has confirmed, marking the latest attack in a region that has witnessed a resurgence of ethnic and jihadist violence.
The attack took place in the ethnic Dogon village of Sobane, in Mali’s central Mopti region, where Dogon hunters and members of the largely nomadic Fulani ethnic group have repeatedly clashed in recent months.
Armed assailants set fire to the village and shot villagers as they sought to escape the flames, the mayor of Sangha told FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Bamako, Christelle Pire.
The mayor said the charred bodies of 95 people had been found and that several more villagers were missing.
Contacted by FRANCE 24, the Malian defence ministry confirmed the death toll at 95, adding that 19 people were still missing and that the toll was likely to rise.
Mali’s communication ministry later gave a revised death toll of 35 based on those who had been identified by the governor of Mopti. But the higher toll has been confirmed by the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, with sources on the ground noting that the governor's count did not include bodies found under collapsed homes.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.
Members of the Dogon and Fulani groups often clash over access to land and water. The Dogon also accuse Fulanis of having ties to local jihadist groups, while Fulanis claim that Mali’s army has armed Dogon hunters to attack them.
Earlier this year, the massacre of more than 150 Fulani villagers, including women and children, prompted Mali’s government to sack senior military officials and dissolve a militia composed of Dogon hunters.
Weeks later, the entire government resigned over its failure to disarm militias and beat back Islamist militants, who continue to stage attacks six years after France helped Malian forces stave off a jihadist insurgency in the country's restive north.
"This country cannot be led by a cycle of revenge, and vendetta," Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita told ORTM public television from Switzerland, where he said he was cutting short an official visit.
He called on Malians to come together to "allow our nation to survive, because this is a question of survival."
"It's a shock, a tragedy," MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif said of the latest bloodletting, noting that it came at a time "when we are discussing the renewal of the [MINUSMA] mandate."
There are currently some 14,700 troops and police deployed in Mali, which ranks as the most dangerous UN mission, with 125 peacekeepers killed in attacks since deployment in 2013. A decision on renewing the force's mandate is expected by June 27.
Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, Annadif voiced regret that the Malian authorities had not been present enough in the area to prevent such violence.
Just a week earlier, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had warned of a "high risk" of atrocities and called on the government to strengthen its response to extremist groups.
On Monday, Guterres' spokesman said the secretary general was "outraged" by the massacre and that he called "on the Malian authorities to investigate this tragedy and to bring the perpetrators to justice."