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Mali’s government sharply lowers death toll in village massacre

Stringer, AFP | Officials and residents stand near freshly dug graves in the Dogon village of Sobane on June 11, 2019.

Malian authorities have lowered the death toll from a massacre in central Mali that has prompted fears of retaliation in a region roiled by a resurgence of ethnic violence.

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Mali's government now says 35 people died in Sunday’s gruesome attack on the village of Sobane, down from an earlier toll of 95.

"This number is based on a painstaking count carried out by a team comprising officials from the civil protection force, forensic doctors [and] the public prosecutor of Mopti" region, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

About a hundred women had succeeded in fleeing to a nearby village, and this was one of the causes of the confusion, it said.

Initial figures came from local officials who on Wednesday maintained that dozens of people remain missing in Sobane, an ethnic Dogon village.

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who cut short a visit to Switzerland to respond to the attack, has announced three days of national mourning starting on Thursday, said FRANCE 24's correspondent in Bamako, Christelle Pire.

His government has also sacked the governor of Mopti region over his failure to prevent this and other recent attacks, Pire added.

Sunday's massacre marked the latest bloodletting in a growing ethnic conflict that has been inflamed by fears of Islamic extremism. Tens of thousands of people have fled the violence in recent months.

There has been no claim of responsibility, though tensions have been high since a Dogon militia was accused of carrying out a massacre in an ethnic Fulani village in March that left at least 157 dead.

On May 16, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, announced it had recorded "at least 488 deaths" in attacks on Fulanis in the central regions of Mopti and Segou since January 2018.

Armed Fulanis "caused 63 deaths" among civilians in the Mopti region over the same period, it said.

The Fulani are primarily cattle breeders and traders, while the Bambara and Dogon are traditionally sedentary farmers.

Located in the heart of the Sahel, Mali is one of the world's poorest countries.

Unrest in the volatile central region coincides with an ongoing jihadist campaign that the Mali government is struggling to contain, despite military support from France and UN peacekeepers.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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