Forty people, including nine soldiers, were killed in a flood of attacks in central Mali, the authorities said on Friday. Most of the deaths were caused by inter-ethnic violence in the deeply affected region.
Thirty-one people were killed in an overnight attack in Ogossagou, a village mainly populated by Fulani, in which 160 people were killed in a massacre in March last year that was accused of the Dogon militiamen.
About 30 armed men carried out the new attack, village head Aly Ousmane Barry told AFP.
"Cabins and harvests were set on fire, cattle were burned or taken away," he added, vowing that the government would find the perpetrators.
A local government official who asked for anonymity previously said 28 people were missing.
He accused a Dogon hunter group of the attack – an allegation that could not be independently verified.
Official and village chief Aly Ousmane Barry said the attackers had moved in several hours after government forces left the area.
Eight soldiers ambushed
Eight Malian soldiers were killed and four others injured in an ambush in the central Gao region later on Friday, the army said.
The Malian force also suffered "material damage," the military said on social media websites without specifying who had carried out the attack in the village of Bentia.
Also on Friday, a soldier was killed in an attack on a military camp in Mondoro, also in central Mali, security officials said.
The camp had been hit earlier as part of a joint raid by militants who also attacked the Boulkessy military camp near the Burkina Faso border and killed at least 25 soldiers.
Central Mali was hit by ethnic violence after a jihadist uprising broke out in the north of the country in 2012.
The uprising has claimed thousands of lives and spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.
Tit-for-tat attacks in central Mali flared up after the Fulani, also known as the Peul, were associated with jihadists.
Under the leadership of an Islamic fire preacher Amadou Koufa, a militia named Katiba Macina recruited Fulani members and was charged with ethnically motivated attacks.
Other ethnic groups such as the Bambara or the Dogon began to form self-defense groups that were accused of massacre repression.
In addition to the recent attack on Ogossagou, 14 Fulani were killed in central Mali in January.
In June last year, around 75 Dogons were killed in an attack on Fulani fighters in the villages of Sobane Da, Gangafani and Yoro.
"Epicenter" of violence
Human Rights Watch highlighted Central Mali's ethnic patchwork as the "epicenter" of violence in the country this month.
It is said that over 450 civilians were killed in the region in 2019, "the deadliest year for civilians" since the start of the jihadist uprising.
Due to the chronic instability, Malian soldiers are often attacked themselves.
On January 26, al-Qaida fighters attacked a military camp in Sokolo in central Mali, killing 20 gendarmes and wounding five others.
The violence in central Mali coincides with renewed hopes that the fragile government can regain control of the largely lawless north.
On Thursday, the troops returned to Kidal, a northern city that had been a bastion of Tuareg rebels, after a six-year absence.
Regular armed forces returned to the city, accompanied by former rebels who were integrated into the army as part of a regional peace agreement.
The agreement reached in Algiers in 2015 is one of the few ways Mali has to escape the cycle of violence.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)