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20.06.2019 Mali

Mali army tightens security after massacre as survivors recall killings

By Kassim TRAORE
Gangafani and Yoro ethnic Dogon villages where 38 people were killed in attacks this week.  By AFP (AFP)
JUN 20, 2019 MALI
Gangafani and Yoro ethnic Dogon villages where 38 people were killed in attacks this week. By AFP (AFP)

Mali's army reinforced security Wednesday around two ethnic Dogon villages where nearly 40 people were killed as survivors recounted how attackers from a rival community identified victims one by one before executing them.

Monday's attack on the Gangafani and Yoro villages was the latest in a cycle of tit-for-tat violence between the Dogon and Fulani communities in the tense ethnic patchwork at the centre of Mali.

Mali's government said Wednesday the army had dispatched a contingent to reinforce security and protect property in the villages near the border with Burkina Faso.

At least 38 people were killed in the villages where survivors and officials say Fulani gunmen arrived by motorbike before massacring people in "revenge" on suspicion they collaborated with the Malian army.

Abdoulaye Goro, a security guard, told AFP he had been travelling by truck to his father's funeral near the two villages, when about forty armed men intercepted the vehicle and forced the passengers into the bush.

"They did identity checks and they only looked for the people from Yoro and Gangafani, and all those who were from those two villages were set apart," Goro said. "They killed them in front of us, with rifles, and released us afterwards."

The attack follows a massacre of 35 people earlier this month in another Dogon village, Sobane Da.

The UN says the wave of ethnic violence has killed hundreds since the start of last year.

Ethnic tensions in central Mali surged after a jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015 and recruited mainly from among the Fulani. Clashes increased with Dogon and Bambara who formed their own self-defense militias.

An attack on another Mali village left 35 people dead, part of a cycle of ethnic violence.  By STRINGER (AFP) An attack on another Mali village left 35 people dead, part of a cycle of ethnic violence. By STRINGER (AFP)

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appealed for an end to revenge attacks after he visited the site of the Sobane Da massacre.

But despite military help from France and the United Nations, Mali's government is struggling to calm violence that began in the north of the country in 2012, sparked by radical Islamist and Tuareg militias.

In March this year, in the bloodiest raid, 160 Fulani were killed in an attack on Ogossagou village by suspected militiamen from a rival ethnic group.

Arrived by motorbike

During Monday's attack, witness Goro said, the gunmen blamed inhabitants for having "cooperated" with the Malian and Burkinabe military about 15 days ago in a raid in the neighbouring town of Dinagourou.

Attacks and deaths of Dogon and Fulaniu civilians in Mali, 2018 and 2019..  By Simon MALFATTO (AFP) Attacks and deaths of Dogon and Fulaniu civilians in Mali, 2018 and 2019.. By Simon MALFATTO (AFP)

At the local level, "there is a dispute between the people of Gangafani and Yoro against the Fulani," Goro said.

"Our kidnappers were taking revenge," the security guard said.

Local officials said the situation has calmed down, but residents were shocked how the gunmen were able to arrive en masse by motorbike even after the government imposed a ban on the vehicles as a way to tighten security.

"The attackers arrived on more than 100 motorcycles, so we need to strengthen security," said Amidou Maiga, a local retired civil servant. "People are frightened."

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said in May it had recorded nearly 500 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 ethic groups are traditionally sedentary farmers.

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