At least twelve people have been killed in an attack on several villages in central Mali, a local official said Thursday, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn country.
Gunmen on motorbikes struck several villages near the town of Bandiagara in central Mali’s Mopti region, according to a relative of one of the victims and an internal UN report.
“What is killing us isn’t coronavirus but war,” said Ali Dolo, the mayor of the rural area where the attacks occurred, adding that the assailants made off with some 500 head of cattle.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012, and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.
Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country, and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Central Mali has become the epicentre of violence in the vast semi-arid country, where ethnically motivated killings and jihadist attacks are now common.
A cousin of one of the victims in Tuesday’s attack, who declined to be named, confirmed the death toll of 12 people and added that six people were also missing.
“They arrived on more than 50 motorbikes,” he said. “For the moment, we’ve found 12 bodies”.
The toll was also confirmed by an internal United Nations report seen by AFP.
“Between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. … alleged Fulani gunmen attacked several communities,” the report said, adding that the villages were some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Bandiagara.
Militant attacks in Mali often have an ethnic dimension.
The pastoralist Fulani people are accused of being close to jihadists, a perception which has led to tit-for-tit massacres between them and traditional hunters.
Dolo, the mayor, also said the attackers had been Fulani.