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100 killed, 19 others missing in Mali massacre

It came less than three weeks after nearly 160 members of the Fulani ethnic group were slaughtered by a group identified as Dogon.

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100 killed, 19 others missing in Mali massacre

Nearly 100 people were killed in a gruesome overnight attack on a village in central Mali, in the latest violence to strike the country, officials said Monday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the massacre, targeting a village inhabited by the Dogon community, bore the hallmarks of tit-for-tat ethnic attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives.

It came less than three weeks after nearly 160 members of the Fulani ethnic group were slaughtered by a group identified as Dogon. 

“Right now, we have 95 dead civilians. The bodies are burned, we are continuing to look for others,” an official in Koundou district, where the village of Sobane-Kou is located, told reporters.

The government, giving a provisional toll, said 95 people had been killed, 19 were missing, numerous farm animals had been slaughtered and homes had been torched.

“Armed men, suspected to be terrorists, launched a murderous attack on this peaceful village,” it said in a statement. 

A Malian security source at the site of the massacre said “a Dogon village has been virtually wiped out.”

The local official said the attackers came and “started shooting, pillaging and burning.” 

The village had about 300 inhabitants, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An association of Dogon traditional hunters, called Dan Nan Ambassagou, deplored the “barbaric and vile” attack which it described as tantamount to genocide.

A brutal cycle of violence in central Mali, an ethnic mosaic, began after a predominantly Fulani jihadist group led by preacher, Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015.

It started targeting the Bambara and Dogon ethnic groups, which in turn started to form “self-defence groups” of their own. The Fulani are primarily cattle breeders and traders, while the Bambara and Dogon are traditionally sedentary farmers. 

On May 16, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) announced it had recorded “at least 488 deaths” in attacks on Fulanis in the central regions of Mopti and Segou since January 2018.

In the bloodiest raid, about 160 Fulani villagers were slaughtered on March 23 at Ogossagou, near the border with Burkina Faso, by suspected Dogon hunters.

According to MINUSMA, armed Fulanis had “caused 63 deaths” among civilians in the Mopti region, also since January 2018.

“It’s a shock, a tragedy,” MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif said of the latest bloodletting, noting that it came at a time “when we are discussing the renewal of the (MINUSMA) mandate.”

There are currently about 14,700 troops and police deployed in Mali, which ranks as the most dangerous UN mission, with 125 peacekeepers killed in attacks since deployment in 2013. 

Donor countries to MINUSMA are to meet at the UN on Wednesday. A decision on renewing the force’s mandate is expected by June 27.

UN warning –

Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, Annadif voiced regret that the Malian authorities had not been present enough in the area to prevent such violence.  

Just a week earlier, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres had warned of a “high risk” of atrocities and called on the government to strengthen its response to extremist groups.

“If these concerns are not addressed, there is a high risk of further escalation that could lead to the commission of atrocity crimes,” he wrote in a report to the UN Security Council. 

In Monday’s statement, the Malian government expressed its condolences and said “every measure will be taken to arrest and punish those responsible for this bloodshed.”

“Reinforcements are currently deployed in the sector and carrying out a wide-ranging search,” it said in a statement.

MINUSMA was established after radical Islamist and Tuareg militias seized the north of the country in 2012. 

The insurgents were pushed back by French troops in 2013. A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups aimed at restoring stability. 

But the accord failed to stop jihadist violence, which then shifted to central Mali, inflaming ancient inter-ethnic hostility.

Koufa in March 2017 joined the newly-formed Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the leading jihadist alliance in the Sahel region, with links to Al-Qaeda. Its leader is Iyad Ag Ghaly.

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Former Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor

Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum

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Fallen Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir was Sunday seen in public for the first time since being ousted, as he was driven in an armed convoy to the prosecutor’s office. The former strongman, who ruled his northeast African nation with an iron fist for three decades, was toppled on April 11 after weeks of protests against his reign.

Dressed in a white traditional robe and turban, Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to prosecutors’ office to face charges of alleged corruption.

Prosecutor Alaeddin Dafallah told reporters after Bashir left the office that the ousted president had been informed that he was facing charges of “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally.”

Meanwhile, a top general from the country’s new ruling military council vowed that those who carried out a deadly crackdown on an iconic protest site that left dozens dead earlier this month would face the death penalty. “We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chief of the ruling military council said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

“Whoever committed any fault” will be held accountable, Dagalo added. Thousands of protesters who had camped outside Khartoum’s military headquarters for weeks were violently dispersed by armed men in military fatigues on June 3, according to witnesses.

More than 100 people were killed that day in Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the protest movement, while the health ministry put the nationwide death toll at 61.

‘Regret’ for crackdown

Protesters and witnesses accuse the feared paramilitary group led by Dagalo, the Rapid Support Forces, of carrying out the assault on demonstrators. Demonstrators and US officials have called for an independent probe into the crackdown.

On Thursday, the military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi expressed “regret” over the crackdown. But the council insists it did not order the dispersal, saying it had actually planned to purge an area near the protest camp where people are said to sell drugs.

“The planning of the operation of Colombia (area) was done by military and security authorities,” the council said in a statement late Saturday. “We assure you that the council is keen to investigate minute by minute facts through its investigation committee.”

Brigadier Abderrahim Badreddine, a spokesman for the investigative committee, told state television Saturday initial findings indicate that “officers and soldiers of different ranks and regular forces” had entered the sit-in without any orders from their superiors.

As calls for an independent probe grew, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Khartoum on Sunday where the military council said he met its chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Bashir had swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. When he imposed a state of emergency on February 22 in a bid to quell protests that erupted in December over the spiralling costs, Bashir issued a decree making it illegal to possess more than $5,000 in foreign currency.

But in April, military council chief Burhan said more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence after he was toppled. A team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros, $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds

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GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya

GNA leader proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene

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The head of Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord announced Sunday a new political initiative and elections in a bid to move the conflict-wracked country beyond eight years of chaos.

“I present today a political initiative for a way out of the crisis (involving) simultaneous presidential and legislative elections before the end of 2019,” GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj said in a short speech broadcast by Libya al-Wataniya TV, without specifying a date for polls.

He proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene, and supporters of a peaceful and democratic solution” to Libya’s crisis. Sarraj’s GNA holds Tripoli, but strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army holds the east and much of the south of the country.

The LNA launched an offensive to take the capital in early April, but counter-attacks by forces loyal to the GNA have resulted in a stalemate on the southern outskirts. Sarraj said his proposed initiative would take place with support from the UN mission in Libya.

“Our army and the forces which support it have given a lesson in bravery to (Haftar) and to his militias,” Sarraj said. “His army has been broken, likewise that of his triumphalist entry to Tripoli that he presented as a two-day walk,” he added.

The two camps have so far refused to negotiate a ceasefire. The GNA is demanding that Haftar’s forces retreat to their previous positions, in the south and east. “We are confident that our forces are capable of repulsing the aggressor and of him sending him back to where he came from… victory was our ally, thank God,” Sarraj said.

He alleged that Haftar is seeking to “undermine the democratic process… and to re-establish a totalitarian regime; that of an individual and a single family”. Haftar meanwhile claims he is fighting “terrorists” and refuses to retreat.

Fighting since April 4 has killed 653 people, including 41 civilians, while more than 3,500 have been wounded — more than a hundred of them civilians — according to the World Health Organization.

The UN says more than 94,000 have been displaced by the fighting.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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Journalists’ association condemns police threats in Somali

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people

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somalia journalists bash police

A Somali journalists’ association Sunday slammed the actions of police who it said threatened to shoot reporters trying to access the scene of a car bombing near parliament and warned of a “worsening situation” for the country’s press.

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people and was claimed by the Al-Shabaab jihadist group, stopped a group of reporters from international newsgroups.

“When the journalists tried to explain to the police about their reporting mission, a police officer fired two bullets (in the) air and then pointed his rifle on Jama Nur’s head, according to Jama Nur Ahmed and two other colleagues,” the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said in a statement.

Also in the group were journalists from Reuters, AFP and Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, followed by a second wave of reporters who were similarly denied access.

“The journalists said the police officers told them they had orders restricting journalist coverage at the scenes of attacks and threatened that any journalist who tries to film will either be shot dead or his/her equipment will be broken resulting (in) the journalists to return back from the scene,” said the SJS.

It charged Somali police treat journalists “like criminals”, preventing them from doing their work of reporting on events in the country. “This is a symptom of a worsening situation against journalists in Somalia”.

It said that on May 14 police confiscated reporters’ equipment, detained a cameraman, and beat up two others trying to report on another Mogadishu explosion.  

AFP has documented several incidents in recent months of journalists being intimidated and threatened and their equipment seized while trying to report on Shabaab attacks.

The SJS called on the Ministry of Information, the commissioner of police and the office of the prime minister to open an investigation, “and take appropriate steps against those responsible.”

“We call the highest offices of the government including that of the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene in order to for the journalists to report freely and accurately without fear,” said the statement.

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