At least 21 people were dead or missing on Friday after an attack on a village that was the scene last year of Mali’s worst civilian massacre in recent memory, the government said.
A government statement did not say who carried out the attack on Friday morning on Ogossagou, a village of Fulani herders in central Mali. Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, said at least 20 people had been killed.
In the attack on Ogossagou last March, suspected militiamen from a rival group killed more than 150 civilians, part of spiralling ethnic and jihadi violence in West Africa’s vast Sahel region.
“They came and shot everything that moved,” said Hamadou Dicko from Fulani association Tabital Pulaaku, who put the death toll at 22 minimum.
Guindo and another local official, who declined to be named, said Ogossagou had come under attack less than 24 hours after Malian troops who had been stationed near Ogossagou left their base.
An army spokesman said soldiers had been deployed to respond to the attack but declined to comment on whether they had previously left the local base.
Central Malian residents have criticised the army for failing to protect them against violence that has displaced 200,000 people and left many communities with no local government or means of defence.
They have turned to self-defence militias for protection against jihadists and rival ethnic groups though the defence groups have also used their weapons to settle scores.
Malian officials have said they suspect Dan Na Ambassagou, an anti-jihadi, ethnic Dogon group of carrying out last year’s massacre in Ogossagou. The group denies responsibility.
French forces intervened in 2013 to drive back al Qaeda-linked jihadists who had seized northern Mali the previous year, but the militants have regrouped, stoking ethnic rivalries in central Mali and elsewhere to boost recruitment and destabilise the region.