Gunmen killed about 60 Fulani herders in central Mali on Saturday, a local mayor said, in one of the deadliest such attacks in a region reeling from worsening ethnic and jihadist violence.
The assault on the village of Ogossagou came as a UN Security Council mission visited Mali to try to find solutions to violence that killed hundreds of civilians last year and is spreading across West Africa’s Sahel region.
Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, saidthe armed men, who were dressed as traditional Donzo hunters,encircled and attacked Ogossagou at about 4a.m.
“It’s a very heavy death toll,” he told Reuters. “The village of Ogossagou is completely devastated.”
One village resident, who asked not to be identified, said the attack appeared to be in retaliation for an al Qaeda affiliate’s claim of responsibility on Friday for a raid last week that killed 23 soldiers.
The group said the raid was payback for violence by Mali’s army and militiamen against the Fulani.
Jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger to boost recruitment and render vast swaths of territory virtually ungovernable.