Alleged members of the Katiba Macina, a jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda, killed at least 132 civilians this weekend in a new massacre in central Mali, the country’s government reported in a statement on Monday. The attacks took place between Saturday afternoon and Sunday, when armed men on motorcycles entered three nearby villages in the Bandiagara area. There they mainly executed the men and set fire to houses, barns and vehicles, causing the rest of the population to flee towards Bankass, some 40 kilometers away.
Local sources assure that these attacks are revenge because some inhabitants of these villages (Diallassagou, Diamweli and Deguessagou) had collaborated with members of the Malian Army and Russian mercenaries in the anti-terrorism operations carried out in the area. . The same sources confirmed that the towns of Ségué and Djiguibombo were also attacked by jihadists, but that in both cities they were rejected by traditional Dozo hunters or armed Dogon militiamen.
The Bandiagara area, near the border with Burkina Faso, is a regular scene of jihadist violence, particularly since 2015, when the focus of the insurrection that Mali has suffered since 2012 moved to the center of the country. It was then that the Macina Liberation Front group emerged, led by the radical preacher Amadou Koufa, whom the Malian government considered dead in 2018, but numerous sources familiar with the conflict affirm that he is still alive in the central zone of the country.
This armed group, which later changed its name to Katiba Macina, was integrated under the umbrella of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM) led by the Tuareg jihadist Iyad Ag Ghali, in turn linked to Al Qaeda. Made up mainly of members of the Peul ethnic group, the Katiba Macina has carried out numerous attacks and attacks in the Mopti and Ségou regions. For this reason, members of the Dogon ethnic group, the majority in the Bandiagara area, have accused the Peul of complicity with jihadism, which has led to massacres of both in recent years. In a context of a state that is practically absent or very weak, Koufa’s group has reached agreements with local communities to grant them protection in exchange for money.
The United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Mali (Minusma) has expressed its concern through its Twitter profile over reports of “attacks carried out by extremist groups against civilians in the Bandiagara region, attacks that have caused victims and population displacement”. Minusma has offered to local authorities, both civil and military, to send a mission to protect citizens and stabilize this area. The Government of Mali, through a statement, has condemned this violence with “the utmost rigor” and has assured that it will continue its task of “searching for and destroying terrorist sanctuaries” through the Maliko and Keletigui operations.
The jihadist insurrection, which began in northern Mali in 2012 – and then spread to the center of the country and to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso – has caused more than 25,000 deaths and some four million displaced persons and refugees. The inability to stop the advance of radicals is one of the main reasons behind the coups in Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years, but the military junta is not managing to put an end to the violence. 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 this country and the Elysee. In addition, the Malian authorities have been turning to Russian instructors and mercenaries from the Wagner company for support in their fight against jihadism since last year.
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