At least 16 dead in central Mali ethnic clashes

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BAMAKO, June 24 – At least 16 Fulani herders have
been killed in suspected ethnic clashes in central Mali, the
government and local sources said on Sunday, underscoring the
chronic instability blighting the West African nation ahead of
elections next month.

Mali is expected to go to the polls at the end of July, but
north of the capital Bamako has become a lawless scrubland used
as a launch pad for jihadist attacks across West Africa that,
coupled with local ethnic tensions, has made governing near
impossible and the forthcoming elections difficult to manage.

Saturday’s attack involved an attack on the village of
Koumaga in the Mopti region, the government said.

“I confirm there were clashes between people from the same
village (Koumaga), in the circle of Djenné (near Mopti). The
army intervened to intervened and counted 16 dead for the
moment,” security spokesman Amadou Sangho told Reuters.

The government did not provide further details about the
attack, but an organisation representing Fulani herders said on
Sunday that close to 50 people were killed in Koumaga by Donzo
hunters as part of ongoing clashes between the two groups that
have long fought over land, grazing grounds and water rights.

“Shepherds, very young children with their animals in the
bush, people returning … to cultivate their fields, were
cowardly murdered,” said Abdoul Aziz Diallo, who runs Tabital
Pulaaku, a Fulani association.

The government has made no sign of a delay to July’s polls,
but Saturday’s violence comes after a turbulent month in the
cotton- and gold-producing nation.

The defence ministry said last week that some of its
soldiers were implicated in “gross violations” after the
discovery of some mass graves in the centre of the country. The
graves were found after a military crackdown on suspected
jihadists and allied ethnic militia.

Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely
allied Islamists took over its north in 2012, prompting French
forces to intervene to push them back the following year. Those
groups have since regained a foothold in the north and centre.

-(Reuters)