UN to investigate ‘horrific’ massacre in central Mali

Aftermath of the attack in Mali that left at least 150 people dead (AFP)

The United Nations has sent a team of investigators, including human rights officers, a child protection officer and crime scene investigators, to central Mali to look into inter-communal violence that killed more than 150 people.

The team of 10 was deployed to investigate the massacre which seemed to target the Fulani ethnic minority last Saturday.

In what appeared to be a reprisal attack after an AL-Qaeda-affiliated group killed 23 Malian soldiers, members of the Dongon militia surrounded the Fulani just before dawn on Saturday and began killing inhabitants indiscriminately.

The men, who were dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, shot and hacked to death many women, children and the elderly.

According to Christophe Boulierac, a spokesman for the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF, one third of those killed were children and 31 children were also injured.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman of the U.N Human Rights office condemned the attack saying “the horrific attacks signal a spike in killings in a cycle of violence in the region that has caused 600 deaths and displaced thousands since last March.”

According to Ravina, the attacks appeared to be motivated by an effort to eliminate violent Islamic extremist groups active in Mali. She, however, noted that millions of people were being painted as violent extremists simply because they were Muslim.

A jihadist insurgency spread into the north and center of Mali in 2012 after Islamic extremists were ousted from urban centers in northern Mali in a French-led military intervention. The jihadists scattered throughout the rural areas, regrouped and began launching numerous attacks against the Malian military. By 2015, they had edged all the way to central Mali where they carried out a number of attacks.

In December 2018, Human Rights Watch released a report in which they warned of an increase in communal violence after it collated more than 200 civilian deaths in the same year.

This latest attack is the deadliest in Mali since 2013.