MORE than 40 people from the Tuareg ethnic group have been killed by suspected jihadists as part of a revenge attack in Mali’s north-eastern border with Niger in two separate attacks.
Rebel group MSA and tribal leaders said more than 30 people were killed on Friday and 12 a day after by gunmen on motorbikes in the Menaka region.
Menaka governor, Daouda Maiga, said: “There are various versions, but I know there are women and children among the victims, as well as elderly.”
Local people are terrified of reprisals after the jihadists suffered major losses in recent attacks in the region.
Menaka official, Attaye Ag Ossadki, said: “But nobody imagined that they would kill civilians in this way.”
The MSA put the death toll from the two attacks at 43.
Tribal leader Sidigui Ag Hamadi said: “There have been 43 deaths in two days, all civilians, from the same community.
“Our fighters are destroying their bases and wiping them out … The jihadists are targeting innocent civilians.”
He added that the deaths were reprisal for attacks on jihadists by armed Tuareg groups.
Jihadist groups have been adept at using local tensions between ethnic groups to their advantage.
Islamic State’s Saharan affiliate is active in the Menaka region.
Maiga added: “The MSA is fighting the Islamist groups, which are composed mostly of Fulani.
“So these two attacks were reprisals against them. They want to transform the conflict into something inter-communal.”
Mali has been ravaged by chaos since Tuareg rebels and Islamists swept across the nation in 2012.
This was despite a French intervention the following year as well as a large French military and UN peacekeeping.
Much of north-eastern Mali is lawless, despite the 2015 peace deal between the government and Tuareg rebels.
Mali has had four uprisings since it won independence from France in 1960.