More than 100 killed in Mali massacre as UN visits





Bamako (AFP) - Dogon hunters killed more than 100 people in an attack on a Fulani village in central Mali on Saturday, local officials said, as a UN delegation visited the country.

"The new toll is 115 dead" in the village of Ogossagou, said Cheick Harouna Sankare, mayor of neighbouring Ouenkoro. "It is a massacre of Fulani civilians by traditional Dogon hunters."

Earlier he had reported the deaths of around 50 people, but warned the toll could rise because many people were unaccounted for. Those bodies had now been found, he said.

The victims were shot or hacked to death with machetes, said a security source. Malian troops with local support arrived at the site in the afternoon, and they gave a toll of at least 105, a security source added.

Boubacar Kane, the governor of Bankass district, which covers Ogossagou, said the "provisional toll" was 115. Survivors had accused traditional hunters of carrying out the attack, he added.

The attack was launched at dawn Saturday in the village near the border with Burkina Faso, said several sources. The district has been the scene of frequent inter-communal violence.

Two witnesses questioned separately by AFP said hunters had burned down nearly all the huts in the village.

The massacre took place as a delegation from the United Nations Security Council visited the Sahel region to assess the jihadist threat there.

The UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said in a Twitter message it "firmly condemns such attacks against civilians" and called on the Malian authorities to investigate.

The UN said the visiting ambassadors from the Security Council countries met on Saturday with Mali's Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and discussed with him the volatile situation in the centre of the country.

- Land disputes -

While local attacks are fuelled by accusations of grazing cattle on Dogon land and disputes over access to land and water, the area is also troubled by jihadist influence.

In the past four years, jihadist fighters have emerged as a threat in central Mali. A group led by radical Islamist preacher Amadou Koufa has recruited mainly from the Muslim Fulani community.

Since then, there have been repeated clashes between the nomadic Fulani herders and the Dogon ethnic group.

Last year that violence cost the lives of 500 civilians, according to UN figures.

In January, Dogon hunters were blamed for the killing of 37 people in another Fulani village, Koulogon, in the same region.

The Fulani have repeatedly called for more protection from the authorities. The government in Bamako has denied their accusations it turns a blind eye to -- or even encourages -- Dogon attacks on the Fulani.

Once considered a beacon of democracy and stability in Africa, Mali in recent years has been dogged by a coup, civil war and Islamist terrorism.

Extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

In June 2015, Mali's government signed a peace agreement with some armed groups, but the jihadists remain active, and large tracts of the country remain lawless.

Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, a strong French military contingent and the creation of a five-nation military force in the region, jihadist violence has not abated.

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