ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE – An attack by members of an ethnic militia on three villages in central Mali claimed 115 lives, the latest clash in an increasingly violent conflict that is fueled by Islamist extremism.
Another 46 were injured in the attack on ethnic Fulani villages on Saturday morning near Bankass in the Mopti region, Boubacar Diallo, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said by phone. It came a week after militants linked to al-Qaida killed 23 Malian soldiers in an assault on an army base in the village of Dioura, also in the Mopti region.
“It’s a massacre, they attacked the village killing over 100 people and injuring dozens,” said Bara Sankare, a Fulani leader in Mopti. The village of Ogossagou, the main focus of the attack, was burned down and its chief killed, said Bankass Mayor Moulaye Guindo.
Those responsible for the latest attack are believed to be Dozo, or local hunters, said Diallo. Government ministers were scheduled to visit Bankass on Sunday.
Communal conflict in Mali and other West African nations is being stoked by a toxic combination of climate change, population growth and state neglect and exploited by Islamist insurgencies, which have drawn the intervention of French and United Nations troops. While attacks between farmers and herders, who are predominantly Fulani, date back generations, the scale of recent violence is unprecedented, and is spreading to neighboring Burkina Faso.
Mali has been engulfed in conflict since a loose alliance of ethnic Tuareg separatists and Islamist fighters with ties to Algeria and Libya seized large swaths of the north in 2012. A French military intervention succeeded in pushing back the insurgents a year later, but al-Qaida-linked militants are now encroaching on the more densely populated central region and increasing tension between local communities.
A delegation of the United Nation’s Security Council arrived in Mali on Friday for talks with authorities about progress on a peace process.