Gunmen shot dead 14 civilians in an attack on a village in north-eastern Mali, a local official said, amid a spate of killings by rival ethnic groups and jihadist militants threatening to derail a presidential election later this month.
Nanou Kotia, mayor of regional hub Menaka, said the attack happened on Sunday in a remote village, near the Niger border.
“The assailants came and opened fire on people. According to our information, there were 14 people killed, all civilians, and a truck and three other vehicles were burned,” he told Reuters.
The mayor did not say who was responsible for the attack. Previous killings have been carried out by Islamist militants as well as fighters from ethnic militia.
A statement by the Tuareg militia Gatia said the assailants belonged to a criminal gang operating along the Niger border and targeted Tuareg civilians in Injagalane.
Suspected jihadists killed more than 50 Tuareg civilians during similar village raids near Menaka in April and May, seeking to exploit ethnic tensions between mostly lighter-skinned Tuareg pastoralists and black Fulani herdsmen.
Violence in Mali, used by jihadist groups as a launch pad for attacks into neighbouring countries, worries Western powers such as France and the United States, who deployed thousands of troops to the semi-arid Sahel region.
Malians are due to vote in a presidential election in less than two weeks. The poll is meant to chart a way out of six years of political unrest and jihadist violence but the situation has grown more volatile in recent months.
The jihadists – some with links to al Qaeda – first seized control over Mali’s desert north in 2012 before being pushed back by a French-led intervention. They have since regrouped and now regularly attack Malian and international forces.