Suspected jihadist attack in Mali kills more than 20 civilians

Over 20 civilians killed in central Mali attack blamed on jihadists, officials report.


An attack blamed on jihadists in central Mali killed more than 20 civilians on Monday, two local officials said, in the latest killings in the troubled Sahel region.

Mali has for over a decade been ravaged by jihadists and other armed groups, with the centre of the West African country becoming a hotbed of violence since 2015.

“At least 21 civilians have been killed” in the village of Djiguibombo, several dozen kilometres (miles) from the town of Bandiagara, an official from the provincial authority said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He attributed the attack to jihadists.

Another provincial authority official, who spoke overnight, said about 20 people had been killed and the security situation prevented authorities from going to the site.

But a local youth representative said the army had arrived afterwards.

Both local authority sources asked not to be identified given their positions. Since the junta came to power in 2020, information about such incidents is not generally made public.

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The attack began before nightfall and “lasted around three hours”, the youth representative said, requesting anonymity for security reasons.

“Twenty people have been killed. More than half are young people. Some victims had their throats cut,” the source said.

“Many inhabitants fled towards Bandiagara. Those who stayed were not even able to bury the dead properly,” he said.

Spiralling violence

The deteriorated security context, remote locations and a lack of reliable information mean that attacks often take a long time to confirm.

Mali has since 2012 been plagued by different factions affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, as well as by self-declared self-defence forces and bandits.

The jihadist violence that started in the north spread to the centre of the country in 2015, when Katiba Macina — an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group — was established, led by the Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa.

Human rights groups regularly denounce widespread impunity for attacks on civilians.

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Radical Islamist groups impose pacts on local populations under which they are allowed to go about their business in return for paying a tax, accepting Islamic rules and not collaborating with the Malian army or other armed groups.

Communities are subject to retaliatory measures in the event of non-compliance.

The violence spilled over into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, with military regimes seizing power in all three countries.

Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by the violence.

Since taking power in a 2020 coup, Mali’s military rulers have broken off their anti-jihadist alliance with France and European partners, while turning politically and militarily towards Russia.

The junta has enlisted the services of what it presents as Russian military instructors, but who, according to a host of experts and observers, are mercenaries from the private Russian company Wagner.

Bamako regularly claims to have gained the upper hand against the jihadists, as well as separatists in the north.

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– By: © Agence France-Presse

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