At least 40 people, including nine soldiers, have been killed in a spate of attacks in central Mali, authorities said on Friday.
At least 31 civilians were killed in an attack overnight in Ogossagou, the government said, without saying who carried out the violence. Last March, 160 people died in the mostly Fulani village in a massacre blamed on Dogon militiamen.
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About 30 gunmen carried out the attack, village chief Aly Ousmane Barry told AFP news agency.
“Huts and crops were set alight, livestock was burned or taken away,” he added, vowing that the government would find the perpetrators.
“They came and shot everything that moved,” Hamadou Dicko from Fulani association Tabital Pulaaku told Reuters news agency.
A local government official, who requested anonymity, had earlier said 28 people were missing.
He blamed the attack on a Dogon hunters’ group – an assertion that could be not be verified independently.
Clashes between the Dogon and Fulani ethnic groups are frequent, compounding a dire security situation in Mali’s semi-arid and desert regions, where attacks by armed groups are common.
The Dogon have lived in central Mali for centuries and are traditionally sedentary farmers. The Fulani people are semi-nomadic and are primarily cattle breeders and traders who move across West Africa.
Eight soldiers killed in ambush
In another attack later on Friday, eight Malian soldiers were killed and four others injured in an ambush in the village of Bentia in the central Gao region, the army said.
The Malian forces also suffered “material damage,” the military said on social media sites, without indicating who had carried out the attack.
Also on Friday, a soldier was killed in an attack on a military camp in Mondoro in central Mali, security officials said.
The camp had been hit in October 2019 in a joint raid by fighters that also targeted the military camp of Boulkessy near the border with Burkina Faso, killing at least 25 soldiers.
Central Mali has been gripped by ethnic violence since an armed revolt broke out in the north of the country in 2012.
In addition to the latest attack at Ogossagou, 14 Fulani were killed in central Mali in January.
Some 75 Dogons were killed in the villages of Sobane Da, Gangafani and Yoro in June last year, in an attack blamed on Fulani fighters.
‘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 more than 450 civilians had been killed in the region in 2019, “the deadliest year for civilians” since the armed uprising began.
Reflecting the chronic instability, Malian soldiers are themselves frequently targeted.
On January 26, al-Qaeda-linked fighters 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 largely lawless north.
Troops returned on Thursday to Kidal, a northern town that had been a bastion of Tuareg rebels, after a six-year absence.
The regular forces were 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.