Militia fighters descended on a village in central Mali early Saturday, killing at least 40 people, including the village chief and his grandchildren, in the latest violence based on ethnic militias in the volatile region.
Militants from a Dogon group known as Dan Na Ambassagou have been blamed for scores of attacks over the past year, according to Human Rights Watch. The umbrella group comprises a number of self-defence groups from the Dogon villages among others.
“This morning around 5 a.m. the Dogon militia attacked the village of Egossogou,” said Sekou Allaye Bolly, who is a Peulh militia leader involved with peace efforts in the area.
The UN mission in Mali known as MINUSMA — which includes the Canadian Armed Forces, whose role in the mission concludes in July — confirmed reports of an attack though did not immediately confirm the death toll provided.
The growing prominence of Islamic extremists in central Mali since 2015 has unraveled relations between the Dogon and Peulh communities.
Members of the Dogon group accuse the Peulhs of supporting these jihadists linked to terror groups in the country’s north and beyond. Peulhs have in turn accused the Dogon of supporting the Malian army in its effort to stamp out extremism.
In December, Human Rights Watch had warned that “militia killings of civilians in central and northern Mali are spiraling out of control.” The group said that Dan Na Ambassagou and its leader had been linked to many of the atrocities and called for Malian authorities to prosecute the perpetrators.
Mali’s Dogon country with its dramatic cliff landscapes and world renowned traditional art once drew tourists from Europe and beyond who hiked through the region’s villages with local guides. The region, though, has been destabilized in recent years along with much of central Mali.