Suspected jihadist attack in Mali kills more than 20 civiliansWed, 03 Jul 2024 16:53:25 GMT

An attack blamed on jihadists in central Mali killed more than 20 civilians on Monday, two local officials said, in the latest killings in the troubled Sahel region.Mali has for over a decade been ravaged by jihadists and other armed groups, with the centre of the West African country becoming a hotbed of violence since 2015.”At least 21 civilians have been killed” in the village of Djiguibombo, several dozen kilometres (miles) from the town of Bandiagara, an official from the provincial authority said on Wednesday. He attributed the attack to jihadists.Another provincial authority official and a local youth representative put the death toll at about 20.All spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons or because of their positions. Since the junta came to power in 2020, information about such incidents is not generally made public. An unknown number of people are missing.The attack began before nightfall and “lasted around three hours”, the youth representative said.”Twenty people have been killed. More than half are young people. Some victims had their throats cut,” the source added. Others were shot dead, the main organisation representing the local Dogon ethnic group said in a statement.The attackers looted houses, set fire to the health centre and motorbikes, and took away livestock and supplies, the organisation, Ginna Dogon, said.The attack is “the latest tragedy in a dark series that the Dogon country has been going through for several years, with daily attacks on villages, farmers in the fields, killings and kidnappings”, it added.”Many inhabitants fled towards Bandiagara. Those who stayed were not even able to bury the dead properly,” the youth representative said.- Spiralling violence -The deteriorated security context, remote locations and a lack of reliable information mean that attacks often take a long time to confirm.Mali has since 2012 been plagued by different factions affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, as well as by self-declared self-defence forces and bandits.The jihadist violence that started in the north spread to the centre of the country in 2015, when Katiba Macina — an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group — was established, led by the Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa.Human rights groups regularly denounce widespread impunity for attacks on civilians.Radical Islamist groups impose pacts on local populations under which they are allowed to go about their business in return for paying a tax, accepting Islamic rules and not collaborating with the Malian army or other armed groups. Communities are subject to retaliatory measures in the event of non-compliance.The violence spilled over into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, with military regimes seizing power in all three countries. Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by the violence.Since taking power in a 2020 coup, Mali’s military rulers have broken off their anti-jihadist alliance with France and European partners, while turning politically and militarily towards Russia.The junta has enlisted the services of what it presents as Russian military instructors, but who, according to a host of experts and observers, are mercenaries from the private Russian company Wagner.Bamako regularly claims to have gained the upper hand against the jihadists, as well as separatists in the north.