May 4, 2019 / 1:51 PM / in 2 months

Ethnic attacks in Mali killed 18 civilians this week - peacekeeping mission

BAMAKO (Reuters) - At least 18 civilians were killed in two related attacks this week in central Mali, the United Nations MINUSMA peacekeeping mission said on Saturday, as the death toll from fighting between local hunters and herders continues to climb.

MINUSMA did not identify the assailants in the attacks on a Dogon ethnic community in the Mopti region.

The region has been engulfed in a conflict between Dogon hunters and Fulani herders that killed hundreds of civilians in 2018 and is spreading across the Sahel, the arid region between the Sahara desert to the north and Africa’s savannas to the south.

MINUSMA said a number of Dogons were killed in an ambush on Wednesday, while other members of the same community were killed on Thursday as they tried to retrieve the bodies from the previous day’s attack. One Fulani civilian was also killed, it said.

“The U.N. urges the authorities to redouble efforts to stop this cycle of intercommunal violence, whose recurrence is very worrying in an already alarming security context,” MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif said in a statement.

The Malian authorities have come under fire for failing to disarm militias or beat back Islamist insurgents, who have been capitalising on the spiralling communal conflicts to recruit new members and extend their reach in the Sahel.

This week’s attacks follow a March massacre of at least 157 Fulani villagers in Mopti, in what was seen as one of the worst acts of bloodshed in the region in living memory.

The escalating violence led to the resignation in April of the entire Malian government.

The largely Saharan nation has been in turmoil since Tuaregs and allied jihadists took control of more than half the country in a rebellion in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year.

Reporting by Souleymane Ag Anara; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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