At least 12 people were killed in an attack on several villages in central Mali, a local official said on Thursday during the latest violence against the war-torn country.
Armed men on motorcycles hit several villages near the town of Bandiagara, in the central region of Mopti, in Mali, according to a relative of one of the victims and an internal UN report.
“What is killing us is not the coronavirus but the war,” said Ali Dolo, the mayor of the rural area where the attacks took place, adding that the attackers took off with some 500 head of cattle.
Malians are fighting to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and has claimed the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians since.
Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN soldiers, the conflict engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Central Mali has become the epicenter of violence in the vast semi-arid country, where ethnically motivated killings and jihadist attacks are now common.
A cousin of one of the victims of Tuesday’s attack, who declined to be named, confirmed the death toll of 12 people and added that six people were also missing.
“They arrived on more than 50 motorcycles,” he said. “So far we have found 12 bodies.”
The assessment was also confirmed by an internal United Nations report seen by AFP.
“Between 4 pm and 9 pm … alleged Peul armed bandits attacked several communities,” said the report, adding that the villages were some 30 km (18 miles) from Bandiagara.
Militant attacks in Mali often have an ethnic dimension.
The Fulani pastoral people are accused of being close to the jihadists, a perception which has led to massacres between them and the traditional hunters.
Dolo, the mayor, also said that the attackers were Fulani.