17 Malian civilians killed in clashes before presidential vote

Reports say bodies of Fulani civilians were thrown into a well by Dogon hunters after deadly raid on Somena village.

Mali election
Authorities insist the vote will go ahead despite the worsening ethnic violence [Maimouna Moro/Reuters]

At least 17 civilians were killed in ethnic violence in central Mali in one of a long series of attacks before a presidential election on Sunday.

Armed men described as traditional hunters attacked the village of Somena on Wednesday, marking the latest flare-up between nomadic Fulani and farmers from the Bambara and Dogon communities.

Abdoul Aziz Diallo, president of Tabital Pulaaku, the main Fulani association in Mali, said 17 people had died in the village, about 400km from the capital, Bamako.

“We recovered all the bodies of the Fulani civilians who were killed and thrown into a well by Dogon hunters,” he said.

The death toll of 17, inflicted by “armed men,” was confirmed independently by a Malian government official who gave no further details.

Diallo said the attack was retaliation for an earlier landmine explosion they blamed on the Fulani.

Election violence

Malians will vote on Sunday in the election contested by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and two dozen challengers. But intercommunal violence and attacks have cast doubt on prospects for a smooth election day.

Authorities have repeatedly insisted the vote will go ahead despite the worsening ethnic violence, which has killed almost 300 people this year, according to the United Nations.

Experts, however, fear the violence could discourage turnout, which already tends to be low in Mali.

Tensions erupted in Mali in 2012 following a failed coup and a Tuareg rebellion that ultimately allowed al-Qaeda-linked groups to take over the northern half of the country.

French forces intervened the following year, but the groups have regrouped and launched attacks across West Africa, inciting tensions between ethnicities.

In 2015, a peace deal was signed between the government and some armed groups, but political and community disputes continue to create tensions in northern Mali, undermining the implementation of the peace agreement.

Source: News Agencies