Over forty people were killed and many others wounded in attacks on two ethnic Dogon villages in central Mali, the government said on Tuesday, in the latest in a cycle of violence in the volatile Sahel country.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks, but Mali has seen a spate of massacres this year between ethnic Dogon and Fulani communities.
“The terrorist attacks on Monday evening targeted the villages of Gangafani and Yoro… not far from the border with Burkina Faso. The official provisional toll is 38 dead and numerous people wounded,” the Malian government said in a statement.
“Defence and security forces have been dispatched to the location to protect the population and their property and to track down the assailants of these attacks,” the statement added, revising upwards an earlier toll of 14 dead.
Goundjou Poudiougou, a local community official, said around a dozen bodies had been counted in both villages.
“They are terrorists because they killed and then disembowelled some bodies and burned crops,” Poudiougou said.
Earlier this month, a massacre on another Dogon village, Sobane Da, killed 35 people, stirring fears of tit-for-tat attacks in a region with an ethnic patchwork.
“This time is the same as Sobane Da: People and animals targeted,” said Adama Dionko, a spokesperson for Mali’s Dogon association.
“We demand the state give us more security.”
Mali’s armed forces also reported, on Twitter, that an army patrol on Tuesday was ambushed at Gossi in the north of the country and suffered both “human and material losses”.
Cycle of violence
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has appealed for an end to the 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.
Earlier this year, in the bloodiest raid, 160 Fulani were killed in an attack on a village by suspected militiamen from a rival ethnic group.
Ethnic violence in central Mali surged after a predominantly Fulani jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015.
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.
Unrest in the central region coincides with an ongoing jihadist campaign that the Mali government is struggling to contain.