March 23, 2019
Gunmen killed more than 60 Fulani herders in central Mali on Saturday, a local mayor said, in one of the deadliest such attacks in a region reeling from worsening ethnic and jihadist violence.
The assaults on the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara took place as a United Nations Security Council mission visited Mali to try to find solutions to violence that killed hundreds of civilians last year and is spreading across West Africa’s Sahel region.
Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, said armed men dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, encircled and attacked Ogossagou, killing about 60 people.
“It’s a very heavy death toll,” Guindo told Reuters. “The village of Ogossagou is completely devastated.”
He said another nearby Fulani village, Welingara, had also been attacked, causing “a number” of deaths but that he did not yet know how many.
One Ogossagou resident, who asked not to be identified, said the attack appeared to be in retaliation for an Al Qaeda affiliate’s claim of responsibility on Friday for a raid last week that killed 23 soldiers.
Jihadist groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger to boost recruitment and render vast swaths of territory virtually ungovernable.
French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance from the desert north, but the militants have since regrouped and expanded their presence into central Mali and the neighbouring countries.
Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali. The United States also has hundreds of troops in the region.
Security Council ambassadors met with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other government officials on Friday evening to discuss the violence and the slow implementation of a 2015 peace agreement with non-Islamist armed groups.