Armed men have killed at least 30 villagers in Mali in simultaneous attacks on several villages in the conflict-riven centre of the country, local officials said on Friday.
The attacks took place on Wednesday in the Bankass region, but were not immediately confirmed because of the difficulty in accessing information from the area.
Officials did not immediately blame any group, but central Mali has become one of the flashpoints of the country’s conflict, with regular jihadist assaults and intercommunal fighting between ethnic groups.
Armed uniformed men travelling in pick-up trucks attacked four villages populated by Dogon ethnic groups, one local official said by telephone, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“From 3 to 9 pm, nobody came to our rescue. I deplore the inaction of the army. It is always late and never confronts the bandits even if we tell them where they are,” said Youssouf Tiessogue, an elder from Gouari, one the villages attacked.
The attack left at least 30 dead, including women, children, the elderly while others were missing, local officials said.
A senior government official also speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the deaths of around 30 civilians, killed by gunmen in several villages.
Unrest in central Mali has killed nearly 600 civilians this year, the United Nations said last month.
Clashes between the ethnic Fulani and Dogon communities have increased in recent months, with community-based militias — initially formed for defence — now launching attacks.
Mali’s war erupted in 2012 when Tuareg rebels supported by armed Islamists took over the desert north of the West African country. The rebels were then outmanoeuvred by their Islamist allies and the French military intervened to force them back.
The conflict has since swept into the centre of Mali and spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions.
More than 5,000 French troops, a regional G5 Sahel military cooperation deal and a UN peacekeeper mission in Mali have not been enough to contain the violence.