At least 132 civilians have been killed in central Mali when groups of armed men on motorcycles entered villages, burning homes, torching barns, and executing civilians, the Malian government has said the attacks were carried out by the jihadist group Katibat Macina.
At least 132 civilians have been killed in central Mali this past weekend by alleged members of Katibat Macina, a jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda, the Malian government said in a statement issued on Monday.
Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday, armed groups of men on motorcycles entered three nearby villages in the Bandiagara area.
The group executed civilians, mainly men, and set fire to vehicles, barns, and houses, forcing the rest of the community to flee towards Bankass, approximately 25 miles away.
Local sources said that the three villages - Diallassagou, Deguessagou, and Dianweli, were targeted in revenge attacks as some residents in these areas had worked with the Malian army and Russian mercenaries in anti-terrorism operations. The same sources also said that jihadists had attempted to attack the towns of Djiguibombo and Segue, but were pushed back by armed Dogon militiamen and Dozo hunters.
The Bandiagara area, which is close to the border with Burkina Faso, is frequently targeted by jihadists. Violent attacks like this have seen a sharp increase since 2015, when the focus of the Mali War moved to the centre of the country. The move coincided with the emergence of the Macina Liberation Front, a militant Islamist group led by radical preacher Amadou Koufa. In 2018, the Malian government claimed that Koufa had died, however, numerous sources familiar with the conflict state that he is still alive and in the central area of the country.
The Macina Liberation Front, which later changed its name to Katibat Macina, was integrated under the umbrella of the Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), whose name means the "Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims". This group is led by the Tuareg militant Iyad Ag Ghali and has strong links to Al Qaeda. Katibat Macina has carried out various attacks in the Segou and Mopti communes, and is mainly made up of members of the Peul ethnic group. For this reason, members of the Dogon ethnic group, the majority in the Bandiagara area, have accused the Peul of acting in complicity with jihadists, which has led to a number of violent massacres in recent years.
MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali condemned the massacre on Monday and offered to send a mission to stabilize the area and protect civilians.
The government of Mali also strongly condemned the violence in a statement, saying that they will continue to "search and destroy terrorist havens" through the anti-terrorism operations "Maliko" and "Keletigui."
The war in Mali started in the north of the country back in 2012 before spreading to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. So far, more than 25,000 people have been killed in the conflict and a further four million have been displaced.
Mali's military junta has been unable to stop the violence. Meanwhile, the French Barkhane operation, which once had 5,500 troops deployed in the Sahel, is withdrawing from Mali due to disagreements between the leaders of both countries.
Since last year, Mali has relied on help from Russian mercenaries from the infamous Wagner Group to support them in their fight against the jihadists.