AMAKO, Mali (AP) — Unknown assailants killed at least 95 people in a central Mali village overnight, government officials said Monday, the latest massacre in a growing ethnic conflict driven by fear and suspicion over alleged ties to extremist groups once limited to the West African country’s north.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the ethnic Dogon village, though tensions have been high since an ethnic Dogon militia was accused of carrying out a massacre in an ethnic Peuhl village in March that left at least 157 dead.
The killings highlight the Malian security forces’ inability to contain the spreading extremism by fighters linked to the Daesh group and Al-Qaeda and the growing danger of frightened communities arming themselves.
Nineteen people were missing after the Dogon village of Sobame Da was attacked around 3 a.m. on Monday, said Interior Security ministry spokesman Amadou Sangho. Homes were burned and animals slaughtered, the government said. The village is in the commune of Sangha, the heart of the Dogon militia blamed for the March attack that has been the deadliest so far.
Some Peuhl leaders had vowed to carry out reprisal attacks for the March bloodshed that was blamed on the Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou. Militia leader Youssouf Toloba has denied his fighters were involved.
A prominent group representing the Peuhl community in central Mali, Tabital Pulaaku, issued a statement blaming the "cycle of violence” on the absence of state authority and impunity for perpetrators of attacks.
"The insecurity and the large-scale massacres exploited by terrorist groups are the seeds of a total and lasting destabilization of the region,” the statement said.
Mali has long battled Takfiri extremism in its far north, with a French-led military intervention dispersing terrorists from the region’s major towns. The extremists have infiltrated communities much further south in recent years, stoking animosity between ethnic groups in the more populated region.
The Peuhl are accused of working alongside Takfiris from the Daesh group to attack Dogon villages and prevent residents from cultivating their land.
In turn, the Peuhl have alleged that the Dogons are collaborating with Mali’s military though there is no conclusive sign of state support.