Mali massacre death toll includes 24 children

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Bodies recovered from a massacre of almost 100 people by a Malian ethnic militia included at least 24 children, many shot in the back, the prime minister said during a visit to the scene.

Attackers believed to be Fulani ethnic raided a rival Dogon village Sobane Da, in central Mali, between Sunday and Monday.

They killed at least 95 and burned houses in an escalation of tit-for-tat ethnic slaughter engulfing the mostly Saharan nation this year.

“All these victims of horror and barbarity remind us of our responsibility as leaders to reinforce and accelerate security,” said Boubou Cisse, who became prime minister in April after his predecessor stepped down following an earlier massacre by Dogon gunmen on a Fulani village in March.

“May the souls of these innocent victims of discord and hatred rest in peace.”

Violence between Dogon hunters and Fulani herders killed hundreds since January, including an attack in March when gunmen killed more than 150 Fulani, one of the worst acts of bloodshed in Mali’s recent history.

President Ibraham Boubacar Keita would cut short a trip to Switzerland “to be by my people’s side in their pain,” according to a statement.

Keita is expected to visit the massacre site on Wednesday. Malians are increasingly frustrated by government failures to protect them from jihadist onslaughts and ethnic reprisals.

Islamist militants exploit tensions between ethnic groups in the Sahara and Sahel to boost recruitment and sow chaos, efforts which appear to be bearing fruit.

Figures from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) show intercommunal violence overtaking jihad as a leading cause of violent death in Mali for the first time this year.

Malian authorities launched a criminal investigation into the latest atrocity and local officials say 35 bodies have so far been identified at the massacre site.

Despite a 4,500-strong French force in the Sahel region, jihadist attacks have multiplied since they first intervened in 2013 in an effort to push back Islamists and allied Tuareg rebels who had taken over the northern half of the country, while ethnic conflicts turned bloodier than ever.