Mali vows to investigate after army accused of deadly village attack
The attack comes at a time of mounting insecurity in Mali. /AFP

The attack comes at a time of mounting insecurity in Mali. /AFP

The Mali government pledged on Saturday to investigate claims that the army killed dozens of civilians in its conflict-riven center, as complaints about the military's conduct in the West African nation escalate.

Some 30 people were killed and a village burnt in the region, officials said, but it was unclear who was behind the latest episode of violence.

Friday's attack targeted a Fulani village named Binedama in the volatile Mopti region, said Aly Barry, an official from Tabital Pulaaku, a Fulani association.

The group released a statement later on Saturday saying that 29 people had died and called for an independent probe led by the United Nations.

Two other local officials confirmed the attack, but gave a lower death toll of 26, adding that the village was torched and its chief killed.

An elected official from the area, who also declined to be named, said that "men dressed in Malian army fatigues" had carried out the raid. He added that they had burned down buildings and killed the village chief.

The strike comes at a time of mounting insecurity in Mali, rising popular discontent with the government, and increasing reports of abuses committed by the country's armed forces.

As is common with many attacks in volatile and remote Sahel regions, it was not immediately clear who the perpetrators were. No group has yet claimed responsibility.

Malian Defence Minister Ibrahim Dahirou Dembele said : "At this stage I can neither confirm nor deny anything," but military investigators would investigate the claims from next week.

Human rights groups have accused the Malian military in the past of conducting extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, torture and arbitrary arrests against suspected jihadist sympathizers – charges it has promised to investigate.

In 2018, the government said some of its soldiers were implicated in "gross violations" after the discovery of mass graves in the center of the country.

Mali, a poor nation of some 19 million people, has been in crisis since 2012 when al Qaeda-linked militants seized its desert north. French forces intervened the following year to drive them back, but the militants have since regrouped and extended their operations into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. 


(With input from AFP and Reuters)