29, April 2018
Suspected militants have reportedly killed over 30 people on Mali’s northeastern border with Niger amid escalation of violence in the country. According to the former Tuareg rebel group MSA and tribal leaders, the massacre occurred Friday, a day after another deadly attack in the same area that killed 12 people. “There have been 43 deaths in two days, all civilians, from the same community,” tribal leader Sidigui Ag Hamadi told AFP from the regional capital Menaka on Saturday.
“Our fighters are destroying their bases and wiping them out. They are targeting innocent civilians,” he added. Menaka governor Daouda Maiga said there were women, children and elderly people among the victims, but did not provide any figures.
The Tuareg rebel group called on the governments of Mali and Niger to take measures to ensure that “an immediate end is put to these abominable crimes” and stressed that it would “not give in to any intimidation.”
Two weeks ago, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said they had received “very serious” information that “summary executions of at least 95 people” had occurred during anti-militant operations in Menaka by “a coalition of armed groups,” including MSA and Gatia, but both groups denied having any role in the reported incidents.
MINUSMA has also expressed concern about an increase in “serious violations and human rights abuses against civilians, including cases of summary execution” in the center of the country.
The UN mission has 12,000 peacekeepers in the country. It has estimated that at least 180 civilians have been killed in Mali this year in at least 85 major violent incidents and armed confrontations.
The warning shows how militants have managed to infiltrate the relatively calmer regions of Mali where local grievances are high. Many fear the central regions, already awash with guns, can be turned into a new scene of violence some three years after the government managed to reach a peace agreement with some armed groups.
In 2012, unrest in Mali drew attentions in France, the former colonizer which still maintains a significant military presence in the country, when Tuareg separatists staged an uprising against the government.
The French military intervened under the pretext that the Tuareg movement had been exploited by terrorists of al-Qaeda. However, many parts of Mali still remain lawless while militants have managed to win the trust of locals in many villages by providing them with basic services and protection from bandits.