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03.07.2019 Mali

Twenty-three die as ethnic tensions escalate in central Mali

By RFI
news.un.org
JUL 3, 2019 MALI

Armed men attacked the villages of Bidi, Sankoro and Saran in the centre of Mali, killing at least 23 people, including women and children, according to the mayor of a neighbouring town, just a few kilometres from the border with Burkina Faso.

“The situation is serious, the army needs to act to reassure the population,” said Cheick Harouna Sankare, the mayor of Ouenkoro.

Sankare told RFI that the attack started a 14h00 local time on Sunday, and the Malian armed forces were alerted, but arrived late.

“It's astonishing. We alerted the army, the army promised to send us helicopter gunships,” said Sankare.

“Indeed, the helicopter came around Saran as the hunters left the village,” he added, saying that the army only sent two vehicles to the town on the ground.

“The soldiers on the ground say they do not have a large number to deal with the attackers,” he said.

The ethnic tensions have escalated since a jihadist group headed by Amadou Koufa began recruiting cattle breeders and traders   primarily Fulani people. Koufa's group emerged in 2015, raising problems with Dogon and Bambara farmers. They in turn have creating their own self-defence groups to protect their villages.

This year has been particularly violent. The UN confirmed 41 people in Dogon villages were killed last month. In March, 160 Fulani were killed.

While the Malian government is trying to deal with the violence, the whole region, including neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, are touched by jihadist violence as well.

Soldiers killed in Niger
In regional news, at least 18 soldiers were killed and four are missing in Inates, western Niger, not far from the border with Mali on Monday. The Niger army said armed fighters on motorcycles blew up two vehicles and opened fire on a military camp.

The last attack in the area was carried out in May by the West African branch of Islamic State in May, killing 28 people, including soldiers.

Niger is scheduled to host the next African Union summit in the capital, Niamey, less than 200 kilometres from Inates.

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